Inspections expand for tapioca chips

Inspections expand for tapioca chips

Authorities inspect tapioca chips to curb smuggling and low-quality imports to Thailand.
Authorities inspect tapioca chips to curb smuggling and low-quality imports to Thailand.

The Foreign Trade Department is tightening inspections of tapioca chip imports along the border after discovering a dozen importers bringing in low-quality chips.

According to Ronnarong Phoolpipat, the department's director-general, from November until the present, which marks the main tapioca chip sales period for this region, the department increased the frequency of inspection teams performing checks at border areas nationwide in response to information indicating persistent smuggling of low-quality tapioca chips.

Failing to address this issue could impact domestic tapioca prices, he said.

Mr Ronnarong said the department's inspection teams have been conducting operations since mid-January and found importers of substandard tapioca chips at Chong Mek checkpoint in Ubon Ratchathani province and Bueng Kan checkpoint.

Since last November, the department has penalised 15 importers of low-quality tapioca chips by temporarily suspending their imports.

"Tapioca is considered a crucial agricultural commodity, providing a livelihood for more than 500,000 households. If low-quality tapioca chips are allowed to enter the country, it will affect the domestic tapioca price, causing significant distress to a large number of farmers," he said. "The department prioritises maintaining quality standards. If any checkpoint is found allowing low-quality tapioca chip imports or if importers do not cooperate with inspection teams, the department will order increased inspections at that checkpoint."

The Foreign Trade Department and Internal Trade Department have monitored tapioca products because substandard items would affect domestic prices and potentially damage the crop's reputation and export opportunities, said Mr Ronnarong.

For smuggling or unauthorised transport of agricultural products, or if prices are not disclosed as required by law, penalties may include imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or both.

If buyers undercut market prices, the penalties may include imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine of up to 140,000 baht, or both.

Last year Thailand exported 8.65 million tonnes of tapioca products with a total value of 127 billion baht, down by 23.0% and 16.6%, respectively. The decline was attributed to reduced production caused by the cassava mosaic virus and the impact of drought.

The Agricultural Economics Office estimated Thailand's tapioca production for the 2023/24 crop year at 27.9 million tonnes, down 9.08% from the previous season. The Foreign Trade Department and farmers estimated exports to dip 12% to 7.6 million tonnes.

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