Ricegate scandal: 10 year old rice stockpile unsafe for consumption

Photo courtesy of The Nation

The Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) demanded rigorous quality and safety checks for a colossal 15,000 tonnes of jasmine rice, stockpiled since 2014 under the controversial rice-pledging scheme.

The council, joined by an academic from Chiang Mai University, fears the rice may be laced with harmful chemicals, rendering it unfit for human or animal consumption.

Deputy Chief of the TCC’s policies and innovations division, Monruedee Pho-in, and Associate Professor Puntipa Pongpiachan from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture sounded the alarm, pointing to concerns about the rice stored in private warehouses in Surin over the past decade.

Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai’s bold move of sampling the rice to assert its safety during a recent inspection raised eyebrows. Yet, Monruedee insists on thorough testing before any auctioning takes place.

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“If the government proceeds with the sale, transparency is paramount. Consumers deserve to know what they’re buying.”

Puntipa, in a damning Facebook post, warns of inevitable contamination after a decade of storage. She cautions against the health risks posed by consuming the rice, indicating potential fungal infestation and chemical contamination.

Critics allege political motives behind the rush to sell off the stockpile, suggesting a bid to salvage the reputation of the past administration, reported The Nation.

With concerns mounting and revelations surfacing, the fate of Thailand’s rice stockpile hangs in the balance, leaving consumers and authorities on edge.

ORIGINAL STORY: Grain gamble: Decade-old rice from Surin warehouses still fresh

Stored for over a decade, rice from the warehouses in Surin, dating back to Yingluck Shinawatra‘s term in office, has been confirmed to be in good condition. Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, gave an assurance of the rice’s quality and announced that a bidding process for it is scheduled for next week.

Phumtham, along with representatives from the private and public sectors, rice surveyors, the Thai Rice Mill Association, rice exporters, and journalists, visited two Surin rice warehouses yesterday, May 6.

The purpose of the visit was to inspect the rice that has been stored for more than ten years, confirming its good quality and edibility. The rice had been housed in these warehouses as a part of the rice-pledging scheme initiated during Yingluck’s tenure as prime minister.

The two warehouses visited were the Kittichai warehouse in the Prasat district and the Poolphol Trading Co warehouse in the Mueang district. The Kittichai warehouse received 258,106 sacks of rice, totalling 26,094 tonnes from 24 rice mills under the scheme on January 3, 2014.

On the other hand, the Poolphol Trading Co. warehouse received 94,637 sacks, amounting to 9,567 tonnes from six mills on March 14, 2014.

Currently, the Kittichai warehouse and Poolphol Trading Co. warehouse have 112,711 sacks weighing 11,656 tonnes and 32,879 sacks weighing 3,356 tonnes left, respectively.

The visit was prompted by a claim from a Surin rice expert who doubted the edibility of ten-year-old rice and questioned the feasibility of Phumtham’s plan to auction the rice for consumption. The expert’s claim followed Phumtham’s previous visit to the same warehouses in March when he had vouched for the rice’s quality and edibility.

“The bidding should be able to start in a week at the earliest. We’ll make it quick and independent.”

During the recent visit, Phumtham dismissed the expert’s assertion, emphasising that the longevity of rice depends largely on its preservation. He stated that if rice is well-preserved, it could last a long time, whereas poor preservation could lead to spoilage within a year.

He further assured that the rice at both warehouses had been carefully preserved and frequently fumigated. Additionally, both warehouses were completely sealed to prevent the intrusion of birds and rainwater.

From the bidding, the minister anticipates raising about 200 to 400 million baht, reported Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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