Sat, Jul 26, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Sanctions, retractions on brands are a farce

By Lin Wei-chih 林偉志

Chyuan Shun Food Enterprise, which markets rice under the Sunsuivi (山水米) brand, had its grain merchant license revoked last year, but an administrative appeal the company filed with the Executive Yuan has since been approved. According to media reports, the Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) quietly reinstated the license last month.

Last week the Consumers’ Foundation accused the government of “pretending to play ball” by first putting a dishonest business on the chopping block, but then letting it go. The foundation called the handling of the affair a dismal failure. The next day, the AFA released a statement expressing regret over the foundation’s comments. This whole shambles is infuriating.

In August last year, media reports and subsequent testing by the AFA revealed that three different types of rice marketed by Chyuan Shun, Taiwan’s third-biggest grain merchant, contained rice imported from Vietnam, while being presented as entirely grown in Taiwan.

In September, the AFA tried to assuage public indignation by hurriedly adding a new regulation to the effect that any grain merchant penalized three times within one year then caught again would have its license revoked.

The result of sample inspections for the third quarter again included one of Chyuan Shun’s products as not being up to standard, this time for containing too many broken grains. On Dec. 12, the Agriculture and Food Agency imposed a stiff penalty on the company by revoking its grain merchant license on the grounds that it had seriously broken the rules on four occasions within one year, adding that Chyuan Shun was the first grain merchant in 60 years to have its license revoked.

The AFA said it was canceling Chyuan Shun’s license in accordance with the law. If this was the first such cancellation in 60 years and if it was done according to the law, one wonders why the Cabinet’s administrative appeal review committee could so easily demand that the original penalty be canceled on the grounds that the timing of the sample inspections was wrong.

How could so many at the AFA, with all their experience of inspecting food products, not know that revoking the license on the basis of sample inspections carried out before the new regulation was introduced would be a violation of procedural justice? Yet the AFA did just that. Was it a move designed just to satisfy consumers?

After Chyuan Shun mixed cheaper Vietnamese rice into its allegedly 100 percent Taiwanese rice, public prosecutors indicted three people, including the company president’s son, on fraud charges, accusing them of having made NT$32,813,130 (US$1.1 million) in profit by illegal means. This was the 19th violation of regulations by the company in two years. Is it in keeping with social justice to reinstate the license of a company that has repeatedly broken the rules?

On May 29, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基), frustrated over the Food Administration Act (糧食管理法) and draft legislation relating to farmers’ pensions and other matters being stuck in the legislature for so long, called on government and opposition party lawmakers to get a move on and do something about the prevailing injustices. Now, however, the government stands accused of “pretending to play ball” in relation to the revocation and reinstatement of Chyuan Shun’s commercial license.

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