Rice smuggling happened with government consent as traders linked to smuggling are the same people issued with importation permits by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority (NFA), a lawmaker said on Monday.
Speaking at the House committee on agriculture hearing, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap said that Agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala and NFA administrator Orlan Calayag has a lot of explanation to do as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe on rice smuggling continues.
“Heads must roll at the DA and NFA over rice smuggling. Massive rice smuggling happened right under their noses and they didn’t do anything to stop it,” Hicap said.
“By the looks of it, rice smuggling happened with government consent.”
The solon said rampant rice smuggling in the country is an effect of the government’s rice importation policy that was intensified by the previous and current administrations.
“Imported rice entering the country through legal and illegal means, continue to flood the local market,” Hicap said.
Based on the NFA’s update on the status of the importation of well-milled rice under the country specific quota of 163,000 metric tons (MT) for 2013, NFA issued import permits to five entities out of 31 applicants for importers.
Among those granted with import permits were Starcraft International Trading Corp. (5,000 MT); San Miguel MPC (5,000 MT); Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise (3,560 MT); Inter-Continental Grains International Trading, Inc. (2,200 MT) and Kwin Rice Trading (5,000 MT). A total of 29 import permits were issued with a total volume of 7,475.30 MT.
Starcraft International Trading Corp. which is number one on NFA’s list of traders with import permits is linked to alleged rice smuggler David Tan.
Trading companies that are awaiting issuance of import permits are Pacifim Rim Harvester; Aaron’s Trading; Jade Bros. Farm and Livestock; Megdalia de Oro Trading; Silent Royalty Marketing; Cebu Lite Trading; Malingas Multi-Purpose Cooperative; San Carlos Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
There are 10 other companies that submitted pre-qualification documents for rice importation to the NFA. They are Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corp.; St. Hildegard Grains Ent.; Mineshaft Trading; Calsada Ricemill and Palay Buying; D Platinum Traders Ent.; Mambusao Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Richfarm Products; Universal Pacific and Reward for Effort.
Hicap demanded the DA and NFA to publicly post the entire list of rice traders and so-called farmers organizations and cooperatives that it issued rice importation permits.
“Alleged smugglers use various ways to smuggle rice into the country and government officials knew this all along. It is likely that rice smugglers are using the same processes and routes used by the government for rice import transactions,” the solon added.
“Rice smuggling is a bane to the local rice production because smuggled rice released in the local market further pulls down the prices of palay (unhusked rice) produced by local farmers.”
Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, on the other hand, urged the House Committee on Agriculture and Food Security to disallow the private sector from importing rice and make the NFA the sole importer to prevent smuggling. JHOANNA BALLARAN