Bid to curb rice smuggling

A nationwide farmers group on Tuesday urged the government to open a loan window for cooperatives in a bid to curb rice smuggling as they hit the proposal of the National Food Authority (NFA) to again monopolize the importation.

Silvestre Bonto, president of the Angat-Ahon Magsasaka, Inc.(AAM), has asked President Benigno Aquino III in a letter to order the Land Bank of the Philippines(LBP)to open a loan window for farmer cooperatives.

The process will allow farmer cooperatives to avail funds for rice importation activities, he said.

He added the loan will also eliminate the practice of cooperatives being used as dummies by rice cartels that finance their participation in the bidding of rice importation.

At the same time, Bonto rejected the proposal of NFA Administrator Lito Banayo to gain back for the agency the sole right to import saying it will only give the rice cartels the opportunity to manipulate the prices and stocks of the staple food.

The AAM was reacting to an article published in nationaldaily where Banayo blamed the farmer cooperatives for allowing them to be used by big-time rice traders as dummies and using their NFA issued import permits as legal cover to smuggle rice.

Bonto recently cited that some farmer cooperatives willingly allowed themselves to use the money of big rice traders for importation in exchange for meager monetary consideration.

He said the NFA rice importation proposal is counterproductive as the scheme had failed in the past to stop smuggling.

Bonto said even if NFA will again control rice importation, the involvement of the the Binondo rice cartel in smuggling will pose concern. The Binondo rice cartel is composed of ten big rice traders in Manila.

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