Group fears gov’t rice policy to breed smuggling
An industry group has expressed its apprehension towards the government’s new rice importation policy after some 100,000 sacks of rice were found smuggled at the Manila International Container Port.
The Bureau of Customs was able to intercept the shipment, valued at P250 million, from Vietnam on Thursday.
According to Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo, the smugglers may have taken advantage of the entry of the rice imported by state-run grains agency National Food Authority (NFA) from Vietnam and Thailand.
“Rice importation only breeds rice smuggling,” Estavillo said in a statement. “The liberalization of agriculture … pushes our country’s dependence on rice importation.”
“Experience tells us that rice importation permits sold to private traders were used to create an opportunity for illegally imported rice to enter the country,” she added.
Bantay Bigas said the government should prioritize the development of the country’s own industry as a means to stop smuggling.
“It must first and foremost implement genuine agrarian reform through free land distribution; veer away from liberalization of agriculture by pulling the country out of the [World Trade Organization] and other unfair trade agreements; provide subsidies, postharvest and marketing support to farmers, provide free irrigation, and stop rampant land use conversion,” the group said. —KARL R. OCAMPO
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