Rice watchdog calls for deeper look on smuggling
By James Konstantin Galvez
Aug. 3, 2012
THE Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) on Thursday called for a deeper investigation on rice smuggling and review of policy on rice importation by the private sector.
In a statement, R1 lauded the ongoing Senate investigation on rice smuggling as a step to look deeper into the policy on rice importation by the private sector, and designate the National Food Authority (NFA) as the lone entity that will engage with trading partners when it comes to rice importation to facilitate closer monitoring of rice coming into the country.
“We support whatever investigation the Senate is doing to curb the age-old problem of rice smuggling,” said Aurora Regalado, R1 convenor.
“More importantly, we hope that the Bureau of Customs intensified operation will result to the capture the so-called big fish in this modus and help the government pinpoint the root of the problem of this illegal rice trade,” Regalado added.
R1 is proposing that the government revise the guidelines on the private sector’s importation of rice and build a mechanism in which all rice imports will get into the country only under the NFA.
The scheme will help the government easily monitor potential rice smuggling even from the ports and the government only needs to honestly enforce customs administration, Regalado added.
Based on the data collected from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics, the group found 1.3 million bags of rice that were possibly smuggled into the country based on the data of the exports from Thailand and reportedly shipped to the Philippines.
“Smuggling is a reality that goes way back and the government has to prove it can solve the problem by seriously putting in place an effective mechanism to help our local rice producers who are already suffering from unfair competition with rice, either imported or smuggled into the country. Suffice it to say that any move to achieve rice self-sufficiency will be for naught if we will allow our markets to be flooded with smuggled or imported rice,” Regalado explained.
R1 also reiterated its call to the government to stand its ground against the pressure from other countries to stop the country’s bid for quantitative restriction in rice in the World Trade Organization.
The group also called on the government to keep in mind that their actions to curb smuggling and restrict the entry of imported rice in the local market is a big help to local farmers.
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