Agri producers, hog raisers call for probe on smuggling of “expired” imported meat
PHILIPPINE agricultural producers and hog raisers called on national government officials to probe the alleged smuggling of at least six million kilos of “expired” imported meat that did not pass the country’s required quarantine tests and food safety examinations.
The Samahan ng Agrikulturang Industriya (SINAG) said conflicting data from two government agencies, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), point to the possibility that at least six million of “expired” imported pork are now in the Philippine market.
SINAG said data they have obtained from sources in the BOC showed that the agency released 121.6 million kilos of imported pork from January to June this year but official figures from the BAI showed that only 116 million kilos passed through quarantine inspection.
Vicente Mercado, chairman of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc., said the director of the BIA and all meat imported should “come forward and disclose the amount of meat they imported this year.”
He added that they should also release other important data like the dates of arrival, quarantine inspection certificates, the places where the importations were brought, and the names of companies or restaurant chains that received the imports.
SINAG chairperson Rosendo So, on the other hand, called on Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala and BOC Commissioner John Philip Sevilla to probe the alleged missing imported pork. “Bakit nakakalabas sa BOC ng walang quarantine clearance at bakit walang quarantine officer to check on the imported meat?”
(“Why were these released by the BOC without quarantine clearance and why was there no quarantine officer to check on the imported meat?”)
Mercado said their discovery about the missing “expired” imported pork comes at “critical period” after a group of meat importers said it is alright for the public to eat expired meat as long as these are frozen.
“These meat importers have no business in the food industry as they pose the greatest threat to our public health security. Kung gusto nila, sila na lang ang kumain at ‘wag na idamay ang pamilya at mga anak natin,” So said.
He also pointed out that the meat importers’ position is alarming, coming as it is in the face of the recent expired meat scandal in China where the Shanghai Husi Company was found to be supplying expired meat to several fast-food chains.
Pork is one of the agricultural commodities that are being smuggled into the Philippines. A study funded by the Department of Agriculture and the results of which were released this year showed that agriculture produce being smuggled into the country is valued at $10 billion yearly.
The study, titled “An Assessment of Smuggling of Selected Agricultural Commodities in the Philippines,” also showed that agricultural smuggling evolved into a big-time illegal trade starting in the 1980s.
President Aquino, in a message delivered by Agriculture Sec. Alcala last April 2014, assured hog-raisers that the government is committed to ending meat smuggling.
“We have been directing our government offices especially the DA to intensify its efforts in impeding meat smuggling to give local hog raisers the opportunity to gain better incomes,” he said.