Probe online sale of smuggled produce, lawmaker urges

Probe online sale of smuggled produce, AGRI lawmaker urges

/ 05:00 AM February 26, 2024

A party list lawmaker is seeking a congressional inquiry into the supposed proliferation of smuggled farm products, specifically onions, which are being sold online, and are threatening the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk as well as consumer health.

AGRI party list Rep. Wilbert Lee filed House Resolution No. 1600 calling on the chamber’s appropriate committee to probe the online sale of the contraband agricultural products, which deprives local growers of earnings and puts the public’s health at risk.

According to Lee, “There is a need to take decisive action and measures from the government to protect our consumers as well as the livelihood of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk amid the online selling of smuggled onions.”


He cited the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura or Sinag, which has observed losses incurred by local onion farmers over the current P28 per kilogram farm-gate price, with production costs at P30 per kg.


READ: P1.5 B smuggled agri products seized since October 2022 — DA

“They are worried that they cannot sell their produce because of the smuggled onions being sold at much cheaper prices online,” Lee pointed out.

The lawmaker also cited complaints from consumers who bought agricultural products online, saying they received produce “of poor quality and close to rotting,” which they could not return to the seller.

“The Department of Agriculture has also reported confiscating smuggled onions with E.coli (bacteria). Smuggled farm products do not undergo phytosanitary tests and other inspections,” he pointed out. E.coli are bacteria that can cause infections in the stomach, urinary tract and other body parts.

But he pointed out that consumers who buy agricultural products despite the health risks can’t be blamed for wanting to get them at cheaper costs. “Whatever they save could be used to buy other necessities or for medical treatment,” he added.

Action urged


Lee urged the Department of Trade and Industry and other concerned agencies to undertake more stringent measures, saying, “In coordination with the Bureau of Plant Industry, the government should closely look into the health hazard of onions being sold online through the conduct of phytosanitary tests and issuance of public warnings if they are unsafe for human consumption.”

In HR 1600, the lawmaker cited a Feb. 20 news report on the supposedly booming online sale of smuggled onions, offered on Facebook for as low as P25 per kg.

“Smuggled agricultural products pose threats to consumers since they failed to undergo phytosanitary analysis, which is conducted either at the country of origin or, in the case of smuggled items, upon their confiscation, to ensure their safety [for] human consumption,” Lee said.

He stressed, “Filipino consumers are also at risk from food product smuggling as uncontrolled importation is most likely to blame for plant and animal diseases, like African swine fever and cocolisap (coconut scale bug), that have plagued the country and the livelihood of many Filipinos.”

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“There is a need to take decisive action and measures from the government to protect our consumers as well as the livelihood of many Filipino farmers and fisherfolk through possible remedial legislation and enforcement of laws, which the inquiry must ascertain and realize,” Lee maintained. INQ

TAGS: agri, Agriculture, Farmers, Smuggling

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