« Main basse sur le riz » bat des records d’audience

L’état major de la chaîne ARTE pavoise : le film « main basse sur le riz » diffusé mardi 13 avril a battu un record d’audience. Près d’un million de téléspectateurs étaient devant leur petit écran. En part de marché, cela représente 3,7%. On peut encore voir le film sur le site internet d’ARTE pendant une semaine, avec le débat qui a suivi.


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Une réponse à “« Main basse sur le riz » bat des records d’audience

  1. Manuel Q Bondad

    8 December 2009
    Let the NFA Redeem itself

    Watchful eyes on RP’s rice importation

    The Philippines as the world’s biggest rice importer, all eyes are riveted at the National Food Authority(NFA), and the Department of Agriculture(DA). Rice is a staple commodity, food for half of this world’s population. Understandably, the conduct of the twin government agencies’ rice import procurement ways are subject to scrutiny, regardless of the mode, public open tenders or G to G price negotiated deals. And so, media outfits local and foreign-based wire agencies in July 2009 reported NFA negotiated “overpriced” imports from Vinafood 2, Vietnam’s state trading firm. Against the contracted price of $550 per ton for 1.5 million tons, reports were buzzing that the pricing was 45% up from the “true” price of $380 per ton.

    Careless or panic NFA buying ?

    Last year in the first quarter storm of 2008 to be exact, there was a rice crisis in this part of the world that propelled world prices to skyrocketing levels – market-driven- as a number of rice experts complained, as global rice production was record breaking and there was no shortage. The NFA was one of the few in whose hands the price spurt was directly attributed to. Was the NFA, the culprit?

    With price levels in April 2008 at $ 755 per MT , for a low grade rice the NFA perennially imports, the agency accepted $ 1200 per MT as payment for an inferior rice including cost and freight , a move that caused headlines ,but apprehension among poor nations. Looking back, the rice quantity for $1,200 per MT was a pittance at some 100,000 MT, compared to global rice trade of 30 million tons. For that singular act, a price of $1,200 , a drop of grain in a bucket of rice, the world was unsettled and even shocked.

    A 100% shift from public tender to G to G rice import procurement

    In June 2008 when international export price for low grade rice was down to $ 760, from May’s $863 and close to 1.5 million tons from public tenders safely tucked in NFA warehouses, the DA dispensed with public rice tenders fearing escalating world prices and to take advantage of low world prices. On a maiden G to G contract with Vinafood 2 for 600,000 MT, the contact price of $ 940 a ton including cost and freight was sealed, heralded as much lower than the $ 1200 price in April, but definitely not at par with prevailing prices . At the time of shipment in July 2008, Senegal was billed $ 680 per ton including cost and freight for milled rice, and $ 608 for broken rice. Aggregate RP 2008 rice imports from the rest of the world reached 2.4 million MT, our highest on record.

    Barely a month elapsed and prices softened to $ 548 per MT in August 2008 ,cascaded to $489 in September ,and finally settled at $318- $323 in December 2008 or one third of May price levels.

    The second G to G negotiated deal for 1.5 million MT, roundly questioned too.

    In December 2008, when prices ebbed, the DA implemented the second phase of a three-year contract expiring 2010 for rice shipment from February to June 2009 again for mostly low grade rice from Vinafood2.

    Government –negotiated in Manila at $549.50 per MT, including cost and freight versus international export quotes at $323 per MT fob basis, the global market was aghast, and media took over in July 2009 to’expose’ the matter, as those in the rice business thought and even reported in January 2009 a price of $380. For $ 460 cost and freight included, Malaysia bargained a deal with Vinafood II for a more superior rice-the 5 percent grade. Iraq paid Vinafood I $411/mt, fob for a similar grade as Malaysia’s. Finally, from the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), the nation’s rice exports worldwide, excluding RP, averaged $ 415 per MT cost and freight including rice grades far superior than what our country purchased. The VFA report was for January-June 2009, a period when RP rice shipments commenced and completed in June 2009.

    In the Mekong River Delta , which produces 90% of Vietnam’s rice exports , the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Report , placed December 2008 price quotes of 5% Broken Rice for export-Vietnam’s best- at VND 6,450 per kg ‘alongside vessel, without bag’. At the prevailing foreign currency exchange, the price level of $ 390 including the cost of bag. As 5% rice grades are more expensive than 25% rice grades by at least $ 50 per ton , the latter is estimated to be priced at maximum $ 340 fob basis in the MRD

    Reviewing ensuing international prices for the low grade rice the NFA bought in December 2008 at $549.50 per MT cost and freight, price levels averaged $ 382, from a low of $ 360 a couple of weeks after the deal to a high of $ 400 in March 2009. When shipment of 1.5 million MT worth $825 million was completed June 2009, world prices for Vietnam rice settled at $362, fob basis. The media reports seem validated and even vindicated!

    Was the adoption of a 100% G to G rice procurement mutually beneficial?

    If the justification of a G to G mode in rice procurement is to guarantee supply, and to lock in low prices, then the Philippine government failed miserably in its mandate to protect Filipino consumers. Vietnam was awash with piles of unsold rice inventory of the rice grade NFA ordered, that even the PM twice announced late November 2008(close to the Dec 2008 contract), that state trading firms accelerate rice paddy procurement from farmers. Moreover the Trade Secretary in his televised address to the Parliament on November 11 2008 reported “The rice stockpiled in the country now remains high, and most of the grain left over was the low-quality 25 percent broken grain which cannot be stored for a long time”. Certainly, against Malaysia’s $460 CNF per ton billing for a superior 5-percent grade , from the same Vinafood II and time frame, NFA miserably flunked, by consenting to $ 550 CNF per ton to an inferior rice grade, longing to be dumped in NFA warehouses.

    The Philippines despite a panel “collectively” composed of Senior Cabinet officials, and a representative from a Procurement Transparency Group failed to negotiate from a position of strength , our country being the world’s biggest rice importer for 25-percent low grade brokens. To substantiate, in the year 2008, out of some 2 million MT Vietnam total exports of 25-percent brokens, 1.6 million tons were devoured by the NFA, against our total importation from Vietnam at 1.7 million MT for all grades. Vietnam needs us, more than we need the country’s rice. Name a country who will absorb an enormous volume, and is willing to pay $549.50, when Vietnam rice was priced $318- $323/mt (fob).If unsold the stocks may be destined for a cattle feed as suggested by a Vietnam official late November 2008 when interviewed by a Vietnam news agency.

    How much did the NFA save for the country?

    In defense of the rice deals, the NFA used Thailand December 2008 rice price statistics to justify in July 2009 the contracted prices. For rice that was sown, transplanted, nurtured, and harvested on Vietnam soil and exported to Philippine soil, NFA in unison with the DA, added many expense items to make Thai rice expensive to be able to defend buying Vietnam rice at $549.50. Selective too was the NFA when the Thai price quotes prevailing at that time-$447 was omitted and used $459, as the former would make Thai rice quotes cheaper when ranged against the price offer of $554 for Vietnam rice. The use by the NFA of Vietnam rice quotes- acknowledged to be much lower at that , was out of the equation at $318- $323 per ton or even $ 400 per ton for Vietnam’s best and much sought in the world market-the 5% rice grade.

    The Savings floated are not accurate; “P 369 million ($7.54 million) for the government” “$27.4 million” and ”prices actually started moving up…saving for a six-month period’;“$ 7.54 million” terribly fictitious; and “price ranged from $456 to $459” self-serving and incomplete.

    How do we ensure that our country’s imports are priced competitively?

    The Trade and Industry department already honed in crafting international trade agreements, should be in the forefront negotiating the details of G to G procurement contracts, and supervising rice public tenders as well.

    The country ought to be demanding on rice imports regardless of volumes. Documents accompanying rice contracts should highlight standards like “fit for human consumption of latest crop year; on arrival at discharge port is subject to inspection by Pilippine Phytosanitary and Health authorities. In case the cargo is rejected for not meeting quality, a refund of payment received.…Rice specifications clean, wholesome, of good food value”.. among many standards and precautions to protect a 90 million population. More, significantly, a protocol “on maximum permissible limits for pesticide residues” in rice is called for. With a deep bench of career veteran trade attaches in both rice exporting and importing countries , the DTI should take a crack at the challenge.

    Were the rice deals overpriced? Were they conducted in good faith? The conclusion is yours to ponder. In the aftermath of the calamities, four rice tenders are in line for 2 million tons for the lowest rice grade, the subject of a commentary when everything is concluded.

    Let the NFA now, redeem itself!

    Manuel Q Bondad

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