FARMERS SUMMIT. Senator Cynthia Villar (seated, center) graces the 1st Regional Farmers Summit held at a private school in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday (Jan. 19, 2023). Villar said there is a move in the Senate to amend the anti-smuggling law to protect farmers from unfair trade practices in light of the escalating prices of onion. (PNA photo by Jigger Jerusalem)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A move in the Senate seeks to amend the existing anti-smuggling law for harsher penalties on those involved in taking advantage of farmers and consumers, Senator Cynthia Villar said here Thursday.

As prices of some basic agricultural commodities, particularly onions, continue to skyrocket, Villar said a group of senators is keen to repeal Republic Act (RA) 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 and put in place a measure that would protect the farmers against unfair trade practices.

RA 10845 declares large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.
“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, concurrent Senate chair on agriculture, told reporters during an impromptu press conference.

Included in the new legislation are penalizing cartels and jailing those engaged in large-scale agricultural smuggling, she added.

Villar was here as a guest speaker at the 1st Regional Farmers Summit held at a private school in Barangay Macasandig.

Among the amendments being eyed on RA 10845, she said, is strengthening the enforcement mechanism of the law.

Villar also assured that "there is an abundance of supply of onions in the country" but 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,” she said.

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.

For instance, Villar said, onions in Mindoro are being bought at PHP15 per kg. but are now sold at PHP600.

She pointed out that if the government is to import onions, it must not be at harvest time but during the planting season. (PNA)