Vietnam rice firm denies paying bribes to win Philippines rice contract

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A farmer ties up a sack of rice in Dong Thap Province. Photo credit: Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon
An executive at the state-owned Vinafood 2 has denied allegations that the company bribed a Philippine official to secure a contract for 700,000 tons of rice, news website Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times) reported.
Nguyen Ngoc Nam, vice director-general of Vinafood 2, made the denial following reports published by www.oryza.com, an international journal on rice science, on June 12.
The website cited local sources as saying that the Philippines Agriculture Secretary allegedly struck a "midnight deal" with Vinafood 2 in April to secure a contract to supply 700,000 tons of 15-percent broken white rice between May and August of this year.
Based on a complaint from the Metro Manila Vendor's Association (MMVA), the Office of the Ombudsman questioned the Agriculture Secretary over his alleged involvement in the Vietnam rice import deal.
The MMVA alleged that the Agriculture Secretary and the former National Food Authority (NFA) Chief facilitated "a deal that would pay them handsomely in illegal kickbacks".
Nam said the Philippines had invited rice exporters from all over the world to an open international bid. Suppliers were supposed to be selected based entirely on the lowest price offered.
On April 15, two state-owned Vietnamese companies – Vinafood 1 and 2 – won deals to supply a total of 800,000 tons of rice to the Philippines (Southeast Asia's biggest importer of the grain) for over three years, after submitting the lowest prices.
Vinafood 2 submitted offers ranging from $436.50 to $441.25 per ton and won contracts to supply 700,000 tons of rice, the NFA said.
Vinafood 1 offered to sell $436 per ton to ship a total of 100,000 tons of the staple grain.
Meanwhile, Cambodian companies offered a price of $469 and Thai companies offered $474 per ton.
According to the Vietnam Food Association, Vietnam had exported more than 2.6 million tons of rice, fetching over $1.118 billion, by June 12.

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