Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Belize Channel 7 TV, gets KUDOS for reporting on bureaucratic rice scam!

Uruguayan import rice scam, EXPOSED by Channel 7 tv investigative reports. Job well done!

Since last week news has been breaking about the presence of Uruguayan rice on the local market for sale at retail outlets in Orange Walk - and almost 20% cheaper than the abundant Belizean rice.

All fingers pointed to the Belize Marketing Development Corporation, because, plainly, rice from Uruguay was not Mexican contraband. But they empathically denied giving any such permission, so the question lingered, where was the rice coming from, and how much of it was on the market?

Well this evening - in fact, just about an hour ago - BAHA, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority sent out a sheepish press release saying they did it.

But, they say they didn't do it to undermine local imports, it was for charity - how it ended up in a Chinese grocery store in Orange Walk is another story, the answer for which you'd have to look up under the letter H for hustling. But, before we get to that, back to the setup: how it was imported into the country.

On fifth November, BAHA received an application submitted by a charitable foundation called "A Hand to The Needy", which gave its address as Price Barracks, Ladyville - which is BDF Headquarters. When we called the BDF, they said that is an outfit run by NEMO - and the BDF only provides the warehouse. The permit was for the importation of 960 bags of long grain broken white rice donated by Food For The Poor - a charitable foundation in Florida.

According to BAHA, the donation was to support poverty alleviation efforts and school feeding programs countrywide. So, the rice was to be imported as a donation solely for charitable purposes. But somehow, it has turned up at retail outlets in Orange Walk - being sold far cheaper than Belizean rice.

This is wrong on so many levels, that it's hard to quantify them all. But 960 totals 9,700 pounds of rice - which may sound like a lot - but it is an insignificant number considering Belizeans consume 260 thousand pounds of rice a week. And certainly, it offers no explanation as to why rice producers say their sales are down sharply, as much as 20%.

So far, Orange Walk Customs has confiscated six sacks of the Uruguayan rice from a local retailer. And so, the licensed importation of Uruguayan rice raises many questions: first who allowed it unto the market? Which is another way of saying, who took it from the poor, for whom it was designated? Second, did the relevant authorities get a CARICOM waiver to import rice from outside the region, which is strictly prohibited under trade rules Belize must adhere to. We hope to have answers to these questions tomorrow.

In other rice-related news, Cabinet has announced relief for the long-deprived Rice farmers of the South. The BMDC paid Toledo rice farmers $40,000 last week, and they will receive $200,000 this week, with another $100,000 to be disbursed next week.

1 comment:

Hipolito Novelo said...

just a fact: CTV3 news was the first to air this business with the rice!!!!