CONGRESS URGED
    Probe more ‘Napoleses’ linked to DA

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    ANGELES CITY – The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) wants Congress to probe reports of artificial palay shortage created by cartels, bogus farmers’ cooperatives given permits to import rice,  and their reported overpricing by as much as P457 million of imports  from Vietnam last April.

    This, as KMP insisted that the current rice shortage now being reported in some parts of the country has been artificially created by rice cartels.

    It asked Congress to look into “bogus farmer cooperatives” maintained by such cartels in the importation of overpriced rice.

    “There are more Napoleses still at large and actively being entertained by the government,” said the KMP, referring to Janet Lim Napoles who has been linked to a P10- billion pork barrel scam.

    “Both houses of Congress should immediately conduct an investigation on the artificial palay shortage hatched by rice cartels and the reported rice importation from Vietnam last April that was allegedly overpriced by P457 million,” the KMP said.

    “A no-holds-barred probe into the artificial palay shortage, hoarding, and skyrocketing rice prices vis-à-vis the overpriced rice importations will reveal the schematic plunder orchestrated by rice cartels under the Aquino government,” said KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores.

    “It is high-time we unmasked more Napoleses in government, particularly rice cartel-led bogus farmer-cooperatives given rice importation permits by their protectors in the Aquino government,” Flores said.

    The KMP issued the call in the wake of reports that the 187,000 metric tons of rice imported by the National Food Authority (NFA) was allegedly overpriced by as much as P457 million, and that rice millers at Intercity, the biggest warehouse and mill of rice cartels in Central Luzon, are shutting down due to alleged palay shortage and high prices of palay from the North, particularly from the provinces of Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, and Cagayan.

    The KMP maintained that “there is no truth in the reported palay shortage”, as it accused the rice cartels of “hoarding to justify massive rice importation.”

    “We have a bountiful harvest. The effect of the typhoon on crops was also minimal,” Flores said, citing Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) projections that palay production for July to December would increase by 3.1 percent to 10.46 million metric tons (MT).

    “Harvest area for the period may grow by 2.3 percent to 2.72 million hectares, from 2.65 million hectares in 2012. Yield may increase by 0.8 percent to 3.85 MT per hectare,” said the BAS report.

    Flores noted that “the artificial palay shortage and the rice price increases clearly demonstrate the manipulations by rice cartels to justify a massive and corruption-tainted rice importation policy.”

    “At present, the bulk of locally harvested dry palay is centralized in the hands of rice cartels and big landlords. They are the ones capable of hoarding palay and are the main culprits in the skyrocketing prices of rice,” Flores said.

    A casual market survey in Pampanga revealed that the price of a 50-kilo sack of rice of average quality has gone up from P1,500 to P1,900.

    The KMP noted that the government is allowing 350,000 MT of rice to be imported annually at reduced tariff rate of 40 percent, while shipments outside Minimum Access Volume (MAV) pay higher rates.

    “The 187,000 MT imported last April that was reportedly overpriced was under the omnibus minimum access volume for rice. The balance of 163,000 MT shall be imported under the MAV-country specific quota as specified under the World Trade Organization agreement,” the KMP added.

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