Home » 3PL/4PL, Ports/Terminals, Press Releases » Use of cold stores in PH agri smuggling exposed

Cold_storeSenator Cynthia Villar is asking the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines (CCAP) to police the cold storage industry, as she divulged information that smugglers are using cold storages in the provinces to conduct illicit trade.

The Senate Agriculture and Food Committee chairperson said that while going around the countryside to inquire about agricultural smuggling, she found out that smugglers were paying “cold stores” in the provinces not to accept the crops or harvests of farmers or farmers’ groups and cooperatives for storage.

“Once local produce were rotten, the imported ones, including those smuggled, would be saleable,” Villar said in a statement.

The lawmaker said they earlier got hold of reports about this “nefarious practice of smugglers that adversely affected our farmers and the agriculture sector.”

She said they also found out that the cold storages that were earlier reported to be full were actually empty upon checking.

Earlier, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group deputy commissioner Atty. Agaton Teodoro Uvero said that a comparison of BOC’s import statistics and Department of Agriculture (DA) data showed discrepancies, indicating that misdeclarations of agricultural imports are occurring because reefer shipments do not go through 100% BOC examination.

Uvero said the agency can only do spot checks because of the lack of cold storage facilities at terminals. He explained that perishable goods cannot be taken out of reefer vans for full inspection because of the risk of spoilage and contamination.

Moreover, BOC cannot hold on to perishable containers for long, as these boxes have higher storage fees compared to dry boxes. Also, x-ray inspections cannot show everything that’s inside a container, Uvero noted.

With these findings, Villar, during CCAP’s recent annual membership meeting, asked the group to “police their own ranks.”

“I pointed this out because I do not want CCAP and its members to be dragged in the smuggling issue,” she explained.

“I know that like any legitimate and upstanding organizations, you can police your ranks. You also represent their individual and collective interests in policymaking, standards-setting and industry development,” she added.

She also stressed that concerted efforts by the two industries—agriculture and cold chain—will result in more business and economic gains.

The lawmaker likewise acknowledged the importance of the cold chain industry to the agriculture sector. “I cannot overemphasize that your role in the supply, storage and distribution of both chilled and/or frozen food products is very crucial,” she said.

She asked CCAP to continue holding dialogues and forming linkages “since we have a common goal of ensuring food security in the country.”

CCAP president Anthony Dizon, in a text message to PortCalls, said that “we have to accept that a certain amount of smuggling is happening.”

He noted that smuggling is a law enforcement matter and that the “private industry can only persuade its stakeholders to desist from participating in or supporting smuggling activities.”

He said, however, that CCAP “endeavors not to play a role in any smuggling activities.” – Roumina Pablo

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