Aquino urged: Revamp customs bureau
Luzon group says crisis looms for farmers as rice smuggling goes on
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The party-list group Abono has asked President Aquino to reorganize the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the agency’s alleged failure to stop the smuggling of rice into the country.
In a statement, Abono said heads should roll because of the BOC’s failure to address rampant smuggling in the Visayas and Mindanao, where rice shipments from China and Vietnam are unloaded.
“Smuggled rice has flooded the market, reaching Nueva Ecija, Baguio, Pangasinan, La Union and even Isabela, the rice granary of the Philippines,” said Abono, the party-list group representing farmers and agriculture stakeholders.
“We are facing a looming rice crisis not because of shortage of produce but because of oversupply. Smuggled rice has been flooding our markets, and millers cannot buy from local farmers because their warehouses are still filled to the rafters,” the group said.
Abono also asked the government to increase the volume of rice that the National Food Authority (NFA) would buy this year to help farmers who were affected by the oversupply of rice.
The NFA, it said, had allotted only P10.9 billion for the procurement of 615,985 metric tons of palay from farmers this year. “That’s a mere 3 percent of the total harvest. If the government is really serious in helping farmers, they must increase the volume to 30 percent or at least P105 billion worth of palay,” the group said.
Total rice harvest for this year is projected at 20.4 million metric tons, which would translate into P351 billion worth of grain.
Abono said that if prices of rice continue to drop, local rice production “will certainly collapse.” It said the price of palay had dropped from P18 a kilogram last year to P15.50 a kg.
The group said the distribution of rice usually started from northern Luzon provinces of Ilocos, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Isabela, Bulacan to Metro Manila. From Metro Manila, rice is shipped to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
The group said, with the entry of smuggled rice, the grains were shipped from Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro to Metro Manila. From Metro Manila, it said, the shipment is taken to Bulacan and transported to other provinces in northern Luzon.
Abono said smuggled rice were usually declared as slag (waste metal), wooden panels, tiles or used clothes. Inquirer Northern Luzon
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