Agriculture Secretary William Dar has given assurances the Department has begun working on a strategy to only allow the importation of corn during off-season of the local harvest.
Dar gave the assurances to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri during Friday’s Senate hearing , when Zubiri urged the department to help local farmers by limiting imports and penalizing technical smuggling of imported products.
Zubiri said: “I’m speaking on behalf of our corn farmers, here in Bukidnon. The importation of feed wheat has drastically brought down their prices. The dried corn is already P9 per kilo, but there’s there’s also P8 per kilo, that’s too low,” Zubiri said.
He added: “And our farmers here have very good crops, MC 14—moisture content 14— already,” he pointed out.
A moisture content of 14 percent is the recommended quality for Grade A corn, per the National Food Authority.
“And we have a bumper crop now as well, record numbers of harvest, but the price, it is cheap because they compete against imports in the market.”
“I am not totally averse to imports,” Zubiri clarified.
“But we need to time it so that our local farmers are not competing with imported produce.”
Zubiri also raised concerns from hog and poultry raisers.
“It has been a difficult time for our hog and poultry raisers. There’s the pandemic, and on top of that, they are also still trying to rise from the damage of the African swine fever.”
Twenty-five provinces have had to deal with ASF, culling, and disposing of 299,375 hogs as of July.
“On top of ASF and the pandemic, our hog and poultry raisers are also struggling with low prices, because of import dumping and technical smuggling.”
“What happened was some traders abuse our policies. For example, our food processors if they make luncheon meat or similar products, they could opt to import mechanically deboned chicken. However, what happened, these unscrupulous traders, they mixed the imported choice cuts, so they can be declared as deboned for processing,” he said in woven English and Filipino. ”
Senator Nancy Binay suggested that perhaps the reason behind the persistence of smuggling in the meat industry was that there had been little to no instances of prosecution for smugglers.
“They need to be made an example for them to stop their illegal activities,” Zubiri said in Tagalog.
Zubiri also committed to supporting an additional allocation for DA’s intelligence funds, to allow the department to investigate and catch smugglers of agricultural products.
He also gave his support for additional funding to assist farmers in this time of the pandemic.