DILG unearths dirty trick of rice hoarders
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Monday disclosed a new modus operandi of rice hoarders as it inspected a warehouse in Malolos City, Bulacan province.
The dirty trick: mixing rice imported from Thailand with broken rice intended for animal feed and selling it as premium Sinandomeng rice.
The duplicity was discovered as Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was inspecting the Purefeeds Corp. warehouse at First Industrial Center in Barangay (village) Tikay, Malolos City.
“The broken rice residue intended for animal feeds came from Vietnam and was being mixed with the Blue Diamond rice imported from Thailand, and then repacked and being sold as ‘Golden Bee’ premium Sinandomeng rice,” Roxas said in a statement.
The inspection team was made up of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Bulacan local officials and representatives of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Customs.
Roxas said the owner of Purefeeds Corp., a certain Jomerito Soliman, could be charged with violation of Philippine trade laws.
Operations of the rice mill will be temporarily suspended as charges are being readied against the warehouse owner.
During the inspection, 32,000 sacks of assorted broken rice intended for animal feed and regular rice imported from Thailand were discovered in the warehouse.
Senior Supt. Ferdinand Divina, Bulacan police acting director, said two trucks loaded with 900 sacks of the adulterated or mixed rice were prevented from leaving the warehouse.
The raid at the Purefeeds warehouse was the 18th to be conducted by the CIDG and the NFA. Of the 18 warehouses raided, four were found to be engaged in illicit trading of rice.
Under Republic Act No. 7581, or the Price Act, the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies are tasked with inspecting warehouses for possible hoarding and diversion of NFA rice.
NFA Administrator Arthur Juan, meanwhile, said the agency would investigate why the two trucks at the Purefeeds warehouse bore the NFA logo and license number.
The CIDG chief, Director Benjamin Magalong, said the series of operations against rice hoarding had yielded 275,000 rice sacks found in warehouses, 80,000 of which were found to be in violation of antihoarding laws.
“We have been inspecting for four days warehouses in Manila, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Isabela and other provinces,” he said in a radio interview.
FAIR to be reviewed
In the wake of the illegal practice of certain traders repacking NFA rice and passing it off as commercial grain for resale at a higher price, Presidential Adviser on Food Security Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the government would review the Farmers Incentive Rice (FAIR) Purchase Program.
The review comes as the NFA started imposing a one-strike policy in which a trader’s license to sell NFA rice would be canceled if he diverted the sale of the government rice or overpriced it.
The government on Sunday raided 12 warehouses in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon and seized more than 170,000 sacks of NFA rice believed to be hoarded.
On Thursday, the police and NFA personnel also seized 1,200 sacks of NFA rice that were being repacked in a warehouse in Marilao town in Bulacan.
Pangilinan said the raids, part of the campaign to prosecute profiteers and dealers hoarding commodities, would be expanded to the Visayas and Mindanao.
The NFA has been implementing the FAIR Purchase Program since 1989, according to Pangilinan.
“Farmers who sell [locally grown palay] to the NFA is given 25 percent of the volume as an incentive [under the FAIR program]. The farmers, in turn, could sell the 25-percent incentive to members of his or her cooperative or he or she can retail [it], provided he or she is a licensed retailer,” the presidential adviser said in a text message.
The 1,200 cavans (a cavan is equivalent to a sack or bag of
50 kilograms of rice) of NFA rice on two 10-wheel trucks found in a warehouse in Marilao, Bulacan, came from the NFA in Pampanga province, police told reporters.
The CIDG filed a criminal case on Friday against the retailer, warehouse owners and workers for violation of the Price Act following the Marilao raid.
Farmers, leaders of cooperatives, traders and provincial officials of the NFA have been summoned to an administrative hearing that began on Monday, Pangilinan said.
Elvira Obaña, provincial manager of NFA Pampanga, confirmed that Jomarro, the retailer in question in the Marilao raid, “obtained” 1,500 bags of NFA rice through the FAIR Purchase Program.
Investigators said around 1,000 bags of NFA rice being repacked into commercial sacks and part of the 5,000 bags stocked in the same warehouse supposedly came from NFA Bulacan.
But the FAIR Purchase Program has been suspended on Monday because the supply of locally grown rice has run out, said Amado de Guzman, NFA director in Central Luzon region.
“FAIR was being implemented regionwide at the time of the raid. The NFA suspended its implementation at present,” he said.
“As of [July 7], generally all our issuances are imported [rice]. [Stocks of] local rice [had run out] as of June 30,” he said.
No data was immediately available on how many cavans the NFA bought from local farmers this year or in 2013.
There are 1,065 accredited retailers in Central Luzon as of July 3, De Guzman said.
Aurora province has 101 retailers who are allotted 40 to 70 bags weekly; Bataan province, 67 retailers allotted 20 to 120 bags weekly; Bulacan, 218 retailers, 30 to 50 bags; Nueva Ecija province, 209 retailers, 45 to 60 bags; Pampanga, 193 retailers, 50 to 100 bags; Tarlac province, 190 retailers, 70 bags; Zambales province, 87 retailers, 35 bags.
In the Pampanga capital of San Fernando, four owners, who own accredited rice outlets, said their weekly allocations were limited to 25 bags a week.
“Buyers are always angry at us because we always run out of supply, and we could sell only 5 kg per buyer. That’s NFA’s order,” an owner told the Inquirer. All four declined to be named for fear that their licenses would not be renewed.
Obaña said the allocation had been doubled in Pampanga starting Monday “to lower the price of commercial rice.”
She said traders were required to pick up stocks twice weekly to “avoid diversion and overprice of rice.”
It was Obaña who disclosed that the new NFA administrator had imposed the one-strike policy on unscrupulous traders.
De Guzman said Central Luzon, as of June, had a rice stock of 6,805,300 bags.
These, he said, would last for 96 days at a consumption rate of 71,140 bags daily. About 10 million people live in the region’s seven provinces.
Originally posted: 7:36 pm | Monday, July 7th, 2014
Government seizes NFA rice hoarded by traders
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