NFA taps NBI vs. illegal rice trade, rebagging, hoarding

MANILA — With more government rice now in the market, National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino warned traders against engaging in illegal rice trade and manipulating the market price of rice.

In a statement on Friday, Aquino said the NFA is intensifying its fight against rice traders, who are illegally rebagging and diverting NFA rice.

He said he has appointed NFA National Capital Region Director Carlito G. Co as NFA focal person to coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the conduct of warehouse inspection nationwide to catch traders, who may be hoarding rice or diverting NFA rice for a greater profit.

“We have to double our effort because it is not enough that we have NFA rice available if it does not go to the market and reach the people,” Aquino said. “We have to ensure that NFA rice is not diverted or rebagged, and then sold as commercial rice at a much higher price in the market by some unscrupulous individuals.”

Reports on rampant illegal trading of NFA rice in the country have also appalled the agency’s chief.

“We only have about 100 inspectors nationwide, with one inspector per province and there are 15,000 warehouses in the country. Yet, our enforcers have apprehended many violators as evident in our reports. But we have to coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to have stronger and better implementation of our enforcement and monitoring activities. With the help of the NBI, we hope we can have better monitoring and enforcement of the law,” Aquino said.

In a report presented by the Security Services and Investigation Department (SSID), NFA inspected 53,662 establishments nationwide from January to July this year. During the inspection, 4,774 rice traders were apprehended for violating various trading laws under Presidential Decree No. 4, and other pertinent laws enforced by the NFA.

The agency was also able to collect more than a million pesos in penalties and fines from the erring businessmen.

Aquino commended the NFA enforcement officers, saying their tireless effort in monitoring the market averted illegal trading practices in the rice business.

“Our enforcers apprehended and penalized violators for various offenses, from light offenses like non-renewal of NFA license, operating without license. We also caught several traders rebagging and diverting NFA rice, but we have to expand our effort on the latter. With the designation of Director Co and our coordination with the NBI, we are hoping that we can totally stop diversion and rebagging of NFA rice,” Aquino said.

By law, it is part of the function of the NFA to ensure industry regulation by monitoring the grains market and enforcement of rules and regulations on the grains business.

It also covers licensing and registration of all rice and corn businesses and promotion of harmonious and productive relationship among rice and corn industry stakeholders to achieve sectoral efficiency, discipline, and growth.

“It is our mandate to provide food security for the country through rice buffer stocking, so we have to ensure that our indigent countrymen can have access to quality rice at an affordable price,” Aquino said. (PR)