First, we got reports on the unrestrained smuggling of food products like sugar, rice, onions, fish and meat—but no one thus far jailed, which has disappointed some officials and many citizens.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, is understandably up the wall, given the reported interceptions of smuggled agricultural products but no one punished.
Another senator, Joseph Victor Ejercito, principal author of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Law, has called on the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Justice to accelerate filing non-bailable charges of economic sabotage against agricultural smugglers taking advantage of the increased consumer demand.
A farmers’ group warned last month the government that more than 20 smugglers are now bringing in white and red onions, rice and frozen meat products.
“Let us please dismantle these groups and charge them with economic sabotage because this is non-bailable,” Ejercito had said.
As prices of some basic agricultural commodities, particularly onions, continue to catapult, Villar said a group of senators is keen to repeal the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 and put in place a measure that would protect the farmers against unfair trade practices.
“We will repeal it (anti-smuggling law) and write a new law that would prohibit any move that will take advantage of consumers and farmers,” Villar said earlier this month.
We note there supply of onions is abundant in the country but, as Villar said, “unscrupulous business operators have a hand in its scarcity in the market and its escalating prices.
“Traders and importers control the price of onions. They buy onions at very low prices and store them, which our farmers cannot do as they have no storage facility.”
The senator said one way to help the onion farmers is to provide a storage facility for their products, so they could sell them as they see fit.
The situation, she added, has already gotten out of hand that some onion farmers have failed to recover from mounting debts and losses.
As if that is not enough for righteous rage across the agricultural tracts, the Department of Agriculture is trying to figure out why the retail prices for eggs have soared to as high as P10 apiece.
For instance, a DA official said eggs sold in Metro Manila markets are overpriced by at least P1.50 per piece.
Egg producers have been saying the farm gate price is stable, with Metro Manila and Occidental Mindoro sourcing their egg supply from Batangas.
One DA official said it seems the problem is in between as when eggs are transported to Mindoro, they only cause an additional 50 centavos; in Metro Manila, the added cost is P1.50, P2 to P2.50.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesman Kristine Evangelista has said the department is investigating after Philippine Egg Board Chairman Gregorio San Diego said farm gate price remains generally low, between P6.70 and P7.20 per piece.
Evangelista acknowledged the layers of traders are a major factor in pulling up retail prices of eggs and one of the solutions is to eliminate the layers of traders to minimize the increase in the retail price.”
Sans doubt, the egg producers should be able to bounce back.
And consumers should be excited with their eggs—scrambled, over easy, or sunny side up—when they are on their tables.
It’s getting “egg-citing,” as one good at swordplay, put forward.