Import ban favors smugglers
May we bring to public attention the call of the Sibuyas ng Pilipinas Ating Alagaan (Sipag) for the Department of Agriculture to ban the legitimate importation of onions even in times of short supply. Sipag’s current stand is a 180-degree turnaround from the resolution adopted by the National Onion Action Team (NOAT), which Sipag and our organization signed. NOAT members agreed to recommend to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala the issuance of import permits that would allow the limited entry of imported onions until Jan. 15, 2011, the expected start of the harvest season. It was further agreed that farmer groups which are members of NOAT be given preference in the import allocation to help them recover from their losses due to Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel.”
Sipag’s sudden change of heart prompts the Consumer Rights Organization Philippines Inc. (CROPS) to clarify its position, or why it signed NOAT’s Resolution No. 1, series of 2011.
1. CROPS is not concerned with the inventories or the farm gate prices of commodities but with the price of food products that consumers pay at retail outlets and wet markets. We view NOAT’s recommendation as a step to lower the onions’ current price of P80-P110 per kilo to the affordable level of P45 per kilo.
2. Allowing the entry of onion imports during the holiday season when demand is high is just an emergency measure to avoid the recurrence of last year’s situation wherein its price reached P210 per kilo.
3. In signing the resolution, we stressed that NOAT’s recommendation is just the initial step to ensure food security. The long-term and permanent solution is to free the country’s economy from all restrictions, specifically the abolition of trade barriers. This is in accordance with the World Trade Agreement to which the Philippines is a signatory.
To recall, our hassle-free entry into the list of the world’s free economies is guaranteed by the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Acef) established in 1996. The 15 years of our being a member of the World Trade Organization and the billions of pesos of Acef spent are more than enough time and resources to have conferred four times a doctorate in agronomy on our farmers.
We maintain that implementing the concept of free trade ensures the unhampered flow of food products at affordable prices to consumers. Productivity-wise we need to jolt our agriculture industry from complacency—put it in a state of “pagkabalisa” that would compel all of us to work hard to become globally competitive.
As of now, let us not abuse any further the patience of consumers by controlling food supply, which raises retail market prices to unconscionable levels—only to benefit smugglers as legitimate importation is totally banned, at the expense of the end-consumers.
MONDRAGON JR., president,
Consumer Rights Organization Philippines Inc.
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