Push to sell old rice raises questions

Push to sell old rice raises questions
Push to sell old rice raises questions
Early this month, Surin’s deputy prime minister and trade secretary Phumtham Wechayachai shows reporters old grain stocks. ( Photo: Ministry of Commerce )

Critics have slammed the administration’s plan to sell decade- ancient corn, accusing it of attempting to paint the loss- driven rice- pledging scheme of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration.

The exporting of the decade-old rice may, according to them, ruin Thailand’s reputation as a premium rice exporter.

In order to generate some profit, deputy prime minister and trade secretary Phumtham Wechayachai vowed that the state wants to auction off the last 15, 000 kilos of rice leftover from the contentious rice-pledging arrangement.

According to Mr. Phumtham, the bidding is anticipated to bring in about 270 million baht in income and lower backup costs, which can reach 380, 000 ringgit per month. He stated that the old corn is anticipated to be exported to Africa.

The deputy head of the decision Pheu Thai Party, Mr. Phumtham, led a group of officials and reporters to check two wheat warehouses in the northern state of Surin early this month to demonstrate that the pledged rice from that ten years ago is still nutritious.

In front of the writers who were with him, he consumed cooked corn from the stores.

He said the old corn may be washed in waters up to 15 days before cooking, when it would be ready for consumption.

The minister claimed that the rice at both warehouses had been kept fresh and often fumigated, and that the warehouses had been sealed to stop birds and water from entering.

However, because it has been subjected to multiple cleaning cycles for more than ten years, critics claim that the grain appears to be in” great situation.”

If the grain requires cleaning every two weeks, it has been through 60 cleaning cycles, which is toxic to people’s wellness.

The rice-eating stunt is comparable to the grilled chicken crazed by past Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in February 2004 to demonstrate the safety of Thai chicken following the bird flu outbreak in Thailand.

The Yingluck grain- promising system, which ran from 2011 to 2014, was the largest wheat market treatment programme in Thai history.

The state purchased grains from producers throughout the program at well above the business value without imposing a cap on the amount purchased for the first time.

As a result, there were loss totaling hundreds of billions of ringgit.

Yingluck fled the country in 2017, just before the Supreme Court sentenced her to five years in prison for failing to stop state revenue plagued by corruption and false.

After the system ended in May 2014, approximately 18.6 million kilograms of grain remained.

On Sept 10, 2018, the leadership of excellent minister Prayut Chan- o- gan sold 17.8 million kilos or 95.7 %, generating revenue of about 146 billion ringgit.

Political aims

Olarn Thinbangtieo, a political science lecturer at Burapha University, told the Bangkok Post he believed the government had engaged in a political ploy.

” It is similar to the chicken- eating show when Thaksin was prime minister”, Mr Olarn said.

Instead of using this kind of political stunt, he said,” the government should send samples of the old rice to agencies for scientific tests.”

Prior to this, Srettha Thavisin, the prime minister, promised to send samples for lab tests to ensure their safety.

Weerachai Phutdhawong, a well-known organic chemistry expert who was asked by a media outlet to test samples taken from Surin warehouses, claims to have discovered aflatoxins on the rice. An increased risk of liver cancer has been linked to flatoxins.

” They]Pheu Thai] want to remove people’s negative perception of the rice scheme. They are attempting to demonstrate that allegations made against the Yingluck administration and the scheme were motivated by politics, according to Mr. Olarn.

People have a reason to believe that the rice-eating stunt might have been done to get something, he said.

Olarn: Ploy to bring back Yingluck

However, Mr. Phumtham had earlier argued that Mr. Phumtham’s decision to sell the decade-old rice was not intended to force Yingluck to go back to court.

Despite the rumors that Yingluck is still in exile abroad, it is believed that she plans to travel home soon after her older brother Thaksin, another former prime minister who was convicted, returned last August. His jail term was then commuted, and he was paroled in February.


The whistle-blower who exposed the rice-pledging scandal under the former Yingluck Shinawatra government, Warong Dechgitvigrom, a chief adviser to the Thai Pakdee Party, agreed that the government’s campaign is merely a veiled attempt to gain political gain.

” The rice- eating stunt was unnecessary. Anyone with common sense knows that 10- year- old rice is not fit for consumption.

” It should do it immediately if the government thinks the rice can be sold. There is no need to politicise the issue,” Dr Warong said.

” But they wanted to organise political events]the rice- eating stunts ] to whitewash the rice- pledging scheme, “he said.

They are attempting to demonstrate that the old rice is still safe to eat. But people do n’t believe them,” Dr Warong said.

He continued, saying that in 2014, 2015, and 2020, auctions were held to sell the rice, but that the winning bidders did not show up to buy the rice.

The Public Warehouse Organization held yet another auction in the first half of this year.

Bidders were required to submit documents certifying their qualifications on January 31 and tender bids on February 8. However, Dr. Warong claimed that the auction was canceled on January 30.

Warong: Buyers fail to show

Hurting reputation

If Thai rice that has been cultivated for a long time is exported to other nations, according to former red-shirt movement leader Jatuporn Prompan, the reputation of which has been deteriorated.

” If Thai rice cannot be sold abroad]as a result of the controversy over decade- old rice], the whole rice trading system in the country will collapse, “he said.

Somporn Isvilanonda, an independent professor of agricultural economics and former adviser to the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand, claimed the government’s attempt to sell the old rice was a big mistake because it failed to take food safety into account.

The rice- eating stunt was unnecessary. Instead, the government should release the results and send samples for aflatoxin and chemical residue testing.

” We suspect a hidden agenda. There may be political gains and business benefits involved, “he said.

He added that if the old rice is exported, international traders might have questions about overall safety of Thai rice.

The Thailand Consumers Council (TCC ) previously stated that it needed to get samples of the 10-year-old rice for a quality check to determine whether it was free of harmful residue.

Somporn: Food safety folly

The Commerce Ministry requested samples of the 10-year-old rice to make sure it is free of harmful residue, according to TCC secretary-general Saree Aungsomwang, but the TCC has not received a response.

She added that the TCC requested the Department of Medical Sciences ‘ response to the rice check.

We may also conduct our own rice tests in the market because we have learned that some of the outdated rice was mixed with fresh grains and sold, she said.

Saree: Ministry yet to hand out samples

Rice trader Kotchakorn Chatboonluekot, a rice trader on Soi Sukhumvit 105, claimed she did not believe the commerce minister’s claim that the old rice is safe to eat.

Rice farmer Thanaphum Phetchawee in Nakhon Pathom claimed that the decade-old rice has been repeatedly fumigated over the past ten years and is unsafe for consumption.

Food vendors wo n’t purchase such rice to cook for their customers. If they do so, they will lose customers,” he said.

Past its best: Workers unload rice sacks, stored under a controversial scheme by the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, during a quality check at a warehouse in Pathum Thani. ( Photo: Pongpat Wongyala )