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Fish imports during closed season to decline

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IMPORTS during the closed fishing season are expected to decline starting next year, a agricultural organization said.

“From 2025 onwards, I am informed that the volume will be progressively reduced, “ Leonardo Q. Montemayor, chairman of the Federation of Free Farmers, said in a statement.

In a memorandum signed by Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu-Laurel, Jr., the Department of Agriculture approved imports of 25,000 metric tons (MT) of fish during the closed fishing season, which runs between Oct.1 and Dec. 31.

The approved import allocation is a 28.6% drop from the 35,000 MT fish import quota approved last year.

“(Mr.) Laurel is doing a balancing act, ensuring enough supply for consumers during the closed fishing season in the last quarter of 2024,” Mr. Montemayor added.

Under Republic Act No. 8550 or the Fisheries Code, closed fishing seasons are declared over certain fishing grounds to help stocks regenerate.

“Presumably, this year’s imports were recommended, as required by law, by the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC), before Secretary Laurel issued the certificate of neces-sity to import,” he said.

The DA said that at least 80%, or 20,000 MT, of the import allocation will go to commercial fishing companies, while the remaining 20%, or 5,000 MT, will be awarded to fisheries associations or cooperatives.

Mr. Montemayor said that the DA and the other agencies mentioned in Administrative Order No. 20 (AO 20) should check why cheaper local alternatives like tilapia are sold at retail at double or more the farmgate price.

AO 20 ordered the DA and the Departments of Finance (DoF), and Trade and Industry (DTI) to ease import requirements for agricultural products and remove non-tariff barriers.

It tasked the DA to review and revise current rules and regulations on importing frozen fish and fishery products during the closed fishing season.

In 2023, fisheries production dropped 6.5%, accelerating the 5% decline recorded in the prior year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Adrian H. Halili

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