CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Department of Agriculture in Northern Mindanao (DA-10) belied the false information of alleged smuggling of cabbage from China reportedly transported to this city and distributed to markets in Metro Manila.

“Based on our Domestic Movement Report for the months of July and August of this year, there is no cabbage supply coming from Region 10 for Metro Manila,” said Manuel Barradas, regional manager of DA-Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)-Plant Quarantine Services (PQS) in a statement posted on Facebook on Saturday, August 21.

Barradas’ reaction came following a post on social media by Hi-Land Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative based in La Trinidad, Benguet on Aug. 16, 2021.

“Consumers, beware of alleged imported/smuggled cabbage from China. According to sources, being sold in Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro at P70.00 per kilo,” the farmers’ group posted on its Facebook page.

The cooperative alleged that said imported cabbage was also distributed to Baguio City and that some buyers from Manila stopped buying local cabbage.

In his August 16, 2021 letter to the Cameron Odsey, DA director in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Agot Balanoy, Hi-Land general manager, said that the locally grown cabbages priced at P115 to P125 per kilo, cannot compete with the alleged produce from China, and that their proceeds have dipped as buyers now prefer the cheap imported vegetable.

“Divisoria buyers who used to purchase 2-3 tons daily just purchased 500-700 kilograms this morning and might not buy any tomorrow since our price cannot compete with the price of these cabbages,” Balanoy said in his letter, referring to the commercial center in Manila City.

In response, the DA-CAR said on its Facebook page on August 17, 2021 that upon verification from the BPI, “no cabbage importation from China was allowed and was issued with Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) as of the moment.”

SPSIC, it said, is a document issued by BPI prior to importation to ensure that the products being imported meet the standards to protect human, animal or plant life or health, ensuring that the products are safe for consumers and to prevent the spread of pests or diseases among animals or plants.

Barradas noted that 1 metric ton (MT) of cabbage was shipped to Siquijor in July this year, while a total of 12 metric tons were delivered to Iloilo City (10 MT) and Negros Occidental (2 MT) the following month.

He emphasized that DA-BPI Central Office in Manila did not issue an SPSIC on the importation of cabbage.

“We have a strengthened quarantine measure in all ports (sea and air) of Region 10, complying to the Memorandum of DA Secretary William D. Dar in the intensification of the first border inspection, and mandatory (100 percent) inspection of incoming plants and plant products in the second border,” he added.

Based on the domestic movement report provided by BPI-PQS, among the fresh vegetables being transported to various parts of the country, mostly in the Visayas area, were cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

These produce, sent either by boat or airplane in the months of June, July and August this year, came from the municipalities of Lantapan and Talakag in Bukidnon, and Claveria in Misamis Oriental.

These vegetables were delivered to Bohol, Siquijor, Tacloban City, Iloilo City, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Manila and Negros Oriental.

The report said the bulk of delivery over the three-month period was carrots, at 910.715 MT, while cabbage was only at 15.451 MT.

In June, 0.780 MT of cabbage was delivered to Bohol, 1.141 MT to Siquijor, and 0.530 MT to Tacloban. The following month, 1 MT was transported to Siquijor.

In August, 10 MT was delivered to Iloilo and 2 MT to Negros Occidental.

For his part, Carlene Collado, DA-10 regional executive director and chair of the DA regional management committee in Northern Mindanao, has directed a team to look into the issue.

To verify if there was indeed an importation of cabbage from China, Barradas wrote to lawyer Elvira Cruz, district collector of the Bureau of Customs-10, on August 18.

“Smuggled or undocumented agricultural commodities like fresh cabbage and other vegetable poses high risk if introduced with injurious plant pest and disease into the country and these products may contain pesticide residue above maximum residue level, which may affect food safety of the product and also cause direct effect to our local farmers that their produce is not able to sell due to proliferation in the local markets,” read a portion of Barradas’ letter.

Cruz, on August 20, replied: “Please be informed that as per attached report from the Chief, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), Port of Cagayan de Oro and Mindanao Container Terminal Subport have not received any shipments of fresh cabbage from China or any undocumented agriculture commodities.”

The district collector added they are strictly carrying out Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 2-2019 in implementing Republic Act 10845 or the Agricultural Smuggle Act of 2016 and that they have maintained steadfast vigilance against any nefarious activity.

DA-10 said Willie Mopon, chair of the Mindanao Agri Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, has assured the public that farmers supply locally produced Green Gold variety cabbage from Talakag and Lantapan and Wakamine variety from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

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