The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday impounded 17,500 bags of Indian white rice at the port of Cagayan de Oro.
Lourdes Mangaoang, Cagayan de Oro district collector, said the shipment was consigned to Tarlac-based farmers’ cooperative Jefmin Farmers and is not covered by import documents.
Danilo Lim, assistant customs commissioner, said in a statement that he believed that syndicates are using loopholes in government policy and rules that allow farmers’ cooperatives to import rice.
The seized shipment, which was kept in 35 container vans and has a collective weight of 875 metric tons, can fetch a minimum of P26 million in the retail market.
Last Feb. 12, customs officials also seized 5,000 bags of rice worth P9 million at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, that the agency said were smuggled in from Vietnam.
The BOC has uncovered a modus operandi that allows the use of farmers’ cooperatives as dummies to bankroll rice-smuggling operations.
Smugglers apparently take advantage of the tariff-free importation privileges of farmers’ cooperatives to bring in foreign-grown rice bought at subsidized prices to the detriment of both local farmers and the government.
The BOC had removed 14 companies and cooperatives from its list of accredited rice importers as part of the bureau’s antismuggling campaign.
Among these are Conquistar Marketing, Dream the Dream Marketing, Happy Morning Enterprises, Kakampi Multi-Purpose Cooperative, KapatiranTakusa Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Pinambaran Farmers Producers Cooperative.