Rice imported illegally into Colombia is a major threat to the industry, says the head of the growers association on Thursday. Over 300,000 tons of rice illegally enter Colombia each year, costing the country an estimated $540 million each year, Dinero magazine.
|“The cheap rice is flooding in from Venezuela, Ecuador and even the US”|
“The cheap rice is flooding in from Venezuela, Ecuador and even the US,” Rafael Hernandez, general manager of the Federation of Colombian rice growers (Fedearroz) told Colombia Reports. Smuggled rice can be up to 40% cheaper than the local grain, economically undermining the 2 million Colombian rice farmers. Across Colombia, there are 35, 813 acres of rice fields under industrial cultivation.
Anti-smuggling bill before Congress
There is currently a bill before the Colombian Senate that aims to crack down on smuggling of all kinds, which Fedearroz says is essential to stem the tide of smuggled rice. “The smuggling is connected with money laundering and the mafia and its hard for the government of control,” said Hernandez. Proponents of the bill argue that increased funds for enforcement will result in increased employment opportunities, protection of public health, tax collection and, in general, greater development for the country.
Legal competition not the problem
While other agricultural industries in Colombia have concerns that the trade pact Colombia signed two years ago with the United States will lead to a flood of cheap imports, rice growers face a different problem. “We haven’t really been affected by the [US-Colombia] free trade agreement [FTA],” said Hernandez, “Colombian rice is still cheaper than [legal] imports from the US.”