US rice 'quarantine' debunked
- Published: 28/06/2013 at 07:17 PM
- Online news:
The Commerce Ministry on Friday dismissed a report that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had ordered close inspections of Thai rice imports at US ports for possible health risk from fumigation.
Vatchari Vimooktayon, the ministry's permanent secretary, said the report was untrue and that Thai rice met international safety standards.
Thai Rath, the country's largest-selling newspaper, was the first to carry the report that the US FDA had ordered "every port" in the US to quarantine rice from Thailand.
It named no sources other than an unidentified "foreign news agency" but no such reports could be found or verified. A check of the US FDA and US Embassy websites for updated advisories related to Thai rice did not turn up any notifications.
Foreign Minister Surapong Torvichakchaikul said he believed the report was fabricated by someone with ill intentions.
He had not received any report from the United States about rice inspections, the Public Relations Department's Thai National News Agency quoted him as saying.
Mrs Vatchari said all Thai rice stocks were examined by surveyors approved by the Bureau of National Import-Export Product Standards of the Foreign Trade Department before they are shipped out.
She said the fumigation processes used for rice before it is shipped abroad were done to standards regulated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, leaving no chemical residue.
Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the ministry's International Trade Promotion Department, said she was coordinating with the FDA and other agencies to look into the US rice quarantine report.
Her preliminary investigation found that aside from routine random inspections, the FDA had never issued an order to specifically quarantine containers of rice imported from Thailand for examination.
She said the only related US FDA action she could find was a May 1 order to quarantine rice imports from India due to contamination from mice, bugs and birds.
The International Trade Promotion Department has assigned trade diplomats to closely monitor the situation abroad as a precautionary action.
Korbsook Iamsuri, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, expressed concern about the report, which could cause some other countries to reject Thai rice.
"Thai rice exporters are aware of the random inspections which is why we make sure the rice shipped abroad is always premium grade," she said.
The United States was the third largest importers of Thai rice in the first five months of this year after Iraq and Benin. It imported 161,000 tonnes.
Thailand exports about 400,000 tonnes of rice to US markets each year.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter