• Melo Acuna

FFW to BoC: Update us on rice import discrepancies

Farmers call on Bureau of Customs for speedy and transparent audit of rice imports

MANILA – The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) expressed optimism the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will hasten the audit of rice import transactions and collection of unpaid tariffs and penalties from erring importers.

In a statement, the farmers group said the BoC reported it had assessed some 40 importers a total of P1.4 billion in additional tariffs and penalties due to undervaluation in their rice shipments between March and June 2019.

“The BoC report is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Our analysis shows that undervaluation and misdeclaration have continued unabated and even worsened in 2020,” said Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager.

A recent FFF study indicated that the discrepancy between FOB (point of origin) prices as declared by importers to invoice freight and insurance charges as “other charges”, so that these would not be included in tariff computations. This has resulted in additional uncollected tariffs of around P1.1 billion. It was learned some P134 million in tariffs were not collected when the BoC assessed imports from India and Pakistan with only 35% tariff instead of 50%.

“We hope the BoC will resolve all these cases quickly and finally end the practice of undervaluation. We also ask the BoC to be transparent and reveal how many import shipments are under investigation, how much in security bonds have been collected from them, and what monetary and other penalties have been imposed on erring importers. We are interested not only in who are caught but also those who might get away,” Montemayor further said.

The FFF expressed concern over the continued use of farmer cooperatives and groups as dummies of rice importers.

“Even if a coop importer is found guilty of undervaluation, BoC might not be able to collect anything because many of these coops actually have very little funds or assets, and might be dormant already. Meanwhile, the actual importer who financed the shipments will go scot free,” Montemayor explained.

They also took the Department of Agriculture (DA) to task after it committed to investigate the matter last year but has not released any findings at all. According the data from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), 55% of the recorded import volume of 1.86 million tons in 2019 was brought under the name of 120 farmers’ cooperatives and organizations. Despite reports of the rampant use of farmer groups as import dummies, the BPI still issued Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Certificates (SPSICs) to 77 farmer associations for 1.17 million tons of imports from January and August 2020. From the 1.66 million tons of imports that actually arrived during the period, 34% were brought in under the name of 69 farmer organizations, the FFF claimed. (Melo M. Acuna)


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