Noel dela Cruz

Buriki—the term used to describe the process of adulterating dry goods such as rice, corn, flour, and even cement has become a new evil that requires militancy on the part of consumers and manufacturers alike.

Buriki started in the late 80s at the start of the deregulation era. It affected mostly products in short supply and therefore commanded higher prices. This made it very attractive for nefarious traders, seeking higher returns, to practice buriki.

To make a killing, unscrupulous traders extract amounts from a legitimate product with the intention of refilling its container with an additive that can pass for the real thing. In the case of rice, premium, high-priced rice may be drawn out of a sack and the depleted volume is then replaced with low quality, cheaper rice. The premium rice drawn out from the tampered sack is then used to fill up a new sack of the adulterated product.

A similar procedure is done with cement where adulteration can take the form of
adding kiln dust or other materials which look like cement. In 1988 when buriki syndicates proliferated, one legitimate cement bag can be converted to two bags of adulterated cement.

The practice is also quite common in some parts of Asia, notably in India and Pakistan where fake cement enterprises are operated by syndicates who have developed a certain amount of sophistication, thereby posing a real problem to law enforcement.

Although the buriki problem is not widespread and will not pose a threat to the local cement industry, it can however create a certain loss of consumer confidence in the product brand that fell victim to buriki . It goes without saying that buriki makers will prefer to adulterate leading and brisk-selling products which will assure them better sales.

Buriki victims are mostly small homebuilders who do not have strict quality controls and standards compliance. Big contractors usually obtain cement in bulk direct from plants or implements very rigid quality controls on their construction materials.

Although there are some tell-tale signs that could help one from identifying adulterated cement, this is not foolproof. Combating the practice of buriki requires militancy on the part of consumers, manufacturers and the marketing chain—including dealers and retailers.
Individual cement manufacturers have teamed up with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) in monitoring buriki activities across the country. DTI has administrative powers to catch retailers selling their products.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), meanwhile, if prompted by manufacturers or aggrieved parties, can prosecute and penalize burikeros found guilty of violating provisions of R.A. 7394 (Consumer Act of the Philippines) which penalizes adulteration and other such anti-consumer practices.

Consumer awareness on how to identify adulterated goods will go a long way in stopping the nefarious practice. Controls could also emanate from the side of manufacturers who can provide guidelines for dealers and retailers, making sure that these observe strict compliance to warehousing and proper storage of cement in accordance with the PNS.
Retailers could also be subjected to periodic government checks that would result in the release of quality certification updates. These certification could be posted visibly at the store premises for public scrutiny at will. Test Certificates should be easy to validate and verify and made tamper-proof through an identification code, dates of receipt, testing and issuance and copies may easily be.

Retailers should not succumb to purchasing cement from unauthorized representatives. People falsely identifying themselves as cement dealers, selling at lower than market prices and who cannot produce any credible link to the cement manufacturers should not be entertained. If in doubt, consumers can call the companies directly for a reference check.
Additionally, consumers who may be suspicious about some products may also have samples tested to both by the cement manufacturers or by government-accredited cement testing laboratory to verify the integrity of the contents of the product purchased.

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