Vietnam rice import ‘overpriced’ by P457M
LUCENA CITY—Activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra on Thursday urged Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to conduct a serious study on rice importation, claiming that the cost of its latest rice importation from Vietnam was disadvantageous to the government to the tune of P457 million.
Citing documents that he had examined, Guevarra said the Department of Agriculture imported last April from Vietnam some 187,000 metric tons of rice at an overprice of P19,762 per metric ton.
“While government-to-government contracts are supposed to be more cost-effective,” Guevarra said the payment made by the National Food Authority (NFA) was way higher than the prevailing market price in Vietnam when the deal was made, which then stood only at P15,480 per metric ton.
“A simple check of the Oryza Global Rice price for the period confirms how the NFA had overpriced its acquisition cost by at least P457 million—a killing for a single transaction,” Guevarra said in a statement on Thursday.
“Secretary Alcala should be more circumspect now in his rice importation, where the price disparity is already indicative of the potential hand of rice price profiteers,” Guevarra said.
NFA administrator Orlan Calayag defended the cost of the agency’s rice import, which was awarded to Vietnam’s Southern Food Corp.
Calayag said Vietnam’s quoted offer was comparatively lower than the offer made by Thailand.
Vietnam’s offer was lower by more than P4,000 per metric ton and even lower by 70 US cents per metric ton than the price of the rice imported in 2012 by the NFA, said Calayag, in a statement posted on the NFA website on April 30.
Calayag said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-member countries with existing agreements to supply rice to the Philippines were invited to submit their sealed offers and quotations but only Thailand and Vietnam joined the tender held on April 3.
In the wake of the controversial multibillion pesos pork barrel scam that prompted ordinary citizens to stage on Monday the biggest protest rally against the Aquino administration, Guevarra warned that the possibility of rice prices being manipulated might “trigger an upheaval.”
On top of the imported 187,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam, Guevarra also alleged that the NFA “inserted” the purchase of another 18,700 metric tons of the staple without any prior approval from the Department of Finance under the Fiscal Incentive Review Board.
Guevarra said he would bring his findings to the Office of the Ombudsman or the newly created Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council for further investigation.
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