Govt wants to sell all old rice
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Govt wants to sell all old rice

Phumtham: 'Better than letting it rot'
Phumtham: 'Better than letting it rot'

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai on Monday insisted that the government wants to sell the last stocks of decade-old rice so the money gained can be returned to state coffers.

Writing on Facebook on Monday, Mr Phumtham said that he wants to auction off the rice left over from the controversial rice-pledging scheme of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's administration so the government can at least earn some revenue.

"It is better than leaving the rice to rot to no value," he wrote.

His online statement explained that the Commerce Ministry has no authority to tell any private company that wins the auction what to do with the rice.

"As far as I know, there are some distillers interested in buying the rice [for the production of alcohol, in addition to some rice exporters with markets in South Africa," he said in his post.

Responding to concerns about aflatoxins in the decade-old rice that can cause cancer, Mr Phumtham claimed that if the quality of the rice is improved using modern technology, it will be safe for consumption.

"I intend to carry out my duty for the benefit of the country, but my good intention is misunderstood," he said in his post.

Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang on Monday denied a report that his ministry would buy the decade-old rice to feed soldiers. He made the remarks while on a visit to the 15th Military Circle in Phetchaburi.

In a speech to new recruits there, Mr Sutin assured them that good-quality food would be provided for every soldier.

"Rest assured that there will be no bad-quality rice," he said.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said earlier that the government will send samples of the decade-old rice for lab tests to ensure its safety.

Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke previously said the Department of Medical Sciences would be contacted to carry out tests on the rice at warehouses in Surin to dispel social media fears that the rice is unsafe to consume or sell.

Weerachai Phutdhawong, a well-known organic chemistry expert who was asked by a media outlet to test samples taken from Surin, has already claimed to have found aflatoxins on the rice.

Aflatoxins have been associated with an increased risk of liver cancer.

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