February 25, 2018, 7:43 am
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Import more rice...

MAY 1982. “The US Justice Department is investigating allegations that rice exporting firms bribed officials of the South Korean government in order to sell large quantities of rice at above market prices in 1981 and 1982... causing as much as $10 million in overcharges for South Korea and excess profits for the exporters.” 

This is history--1982. But if it’s lucrative, and it could still be going on. We read that charges were made in a lawsuit filed by California rice farmers who brought a court case against PIRMI and AGROPROM, multinational rice dealers. 

These multinational rice exporters were accused in 1982 by California rice farmers of bribing the South Korean Office of Supply [the equivalent of our NFA?] “for the favor exporting rice to South Korea, and/or to subsidize future rice sales to South Korea. South Korea is the fourth largest export market for US agricultural goods,” the article tells us.

Named in the suit against the South Korean NFA, which arranges all government imports, was Kim Joo Ho, administrator and CEO of the country’s Office of Supply. South Korean government mandates that all imported food-grains be sold at subsidized prices, which is why staple food is cheap in South Korea. 

In the US Congress, the Agriculture Committee has a Cotton, Rice and Sugar Subcommittee. To this subcommittee, Atty. Joseph Alioto, ex-mayor of San Francisco, explained the suspicions of his clients, the rice farmers: 

 “In October 1981, Korean Office of Supply disclosed that it had purchased 40,000 metric tons of brown rice at $449.90 per metric ton, a price which was $100 per metric ton over the prevailing market price.

“The curious explanation given for the over market price was that the shipment was against an old contract which the supplier had failed to complete during the original delivery period and which, moreover, had been reported to the US Department of Agriculture as having been cancelled... It is a singular event, indeed, when a buyer rewards a seller with millions of dollars for failing to perform on his original obligation.”

Alioto continued, “It appeared that the people of Korea had paid about $4 Million more than was necessary on a purchase of rice... they didn’t want or need.... [South Korean Office of Supply] recently made two more purchases of rice... which will cost the people of Korea at least an extra $6 Million.” 

All those 1982 Korean rice importations, “which people didn’t want or need....” Were bribes again involved? How are the bribes received? How efficiently alert of the US Department of Justice get to know of a very secret deal between the South Korean agency for importing rice and the bribing rice dealers. What kind of a bribe is involved for the cost of one shipload of rice or corn? A brand new Mercedes Benz? A solid gold Rolex watch? Deposits in a specific bank account? The people don’t know, and can only guess.

No wonder rice execs avoid buying from subsistence rice farmers of Bulacan, Pampanga. Subsistence farmers would not even think to send as gratitude a bilao of bibingka or a buko pie to the CEO of the Office of Rice Importer.


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