Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Department of Agriculture Halts Galunggong and Bonito Imports

MANILA, Philippines — The importation of frozen round scad (galunggong), bonito (tulingan), and mackerel (alumahan) has been halted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) due to multiple reports indicating that these goods were being redirected to wet markets, negatively impacting local fisherfolk.

Under Memorandum Order No. 14, the DA has suspended the issuance of import clearances for these seafood products, which were originally intended for canning, processing, and institutional buyers serving hotels and restaurants.

The latest directive highlights specific commodities at risk of being redirected to local wet markets. These include round scad, bonito, and mackerel,” stated the order.

Issued by Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on April 1, the suspension will become effective 15 days following its release.

However, the order makes an exception for mackerel imports intended for canning purposes. To qualify, the volume must align with sales figures from the prior year for canned products, with an additional 10% allotted as a buffer.

The directive mandates that every mackerel import entering the nation must prominently display the following label, using a legible font size: “Imported Under FAO (Fisheries Administrative Order) No. 195 for Canning Purposes Only and not for Sale or Distribution to Wet Markets and Supermarkets.”

Safeguarding Local Fishermen

Nazario Briguera, the spokesperson for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), emphasized that diverting these fish types to wet markets could significantly disrupt the supply and demand balance, ultimately impacting the local fishery industry.

“Such actions are not only unlawful but also detrimental. They would lead to supply and demand inconsistencies in wet markets and introduce competition with locally sourced fish,” Briguera stated in correspondence with the Inquirer.

Enacted in 1999, FAO No. 1995 permits institutional buyers to import fish and aquatic products from overseas specifically for canning and processing, provided that they are certified as essential by the agriculture secretary to support food security.

Institutional buyers, denoting entities or companies authorized to import fish for final consumption or processing as food supplies for accredited hotels and restaurants, are allowed to import without the necessary certificate of necessity.

Illegal Diversion and Its Impact on Local Fisheries

The practice of illegal diversion has had significant repercussions on the fishing industry, particularly affecting the livelihoods of local fisherfolk. This illicit activity involves the redirection of imported fish to wet markets, which has led to a downward pressure on prices and subsequently impacted the earnings of those in the fishing sector.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) last took action against illegal diversion in December 2022. During this period, the agency imposed a temporary suspension on imports, extending even to canners importing round scad and moonfish (bilong-bilong). Additionally, processors were prohibited from purchasing imported round scad, bonito, mackerel, moonfish, pompano, and tuna byproducts.

This measure highlights the ongoing challenge posed by illegal diversion and underscores the need for continued vigilance and enforcement to protect the interests of local fisherfolk and sustain the integrity of the fishing industry.

As of Tuesday, local round scad prices in Metro Manila have dropped to as low as P160 per kilo, down from P180 a year ago according to the Department of Agriculture’s monitoring of wet market prices.

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