Minister guarantees quality rice without fungus from govt stock

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BANGKOK, April 5 – Thai Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom today ruled out an allegations that some brands of fungus-contaminated rice in the market were from the government’s stockpiles.

He said claims in social media that the state-distributed rice contains fungus and changes colour could be distorted as the government’s rice quality control was up to the standard, and rice distributed by the private sector must be strictly checked before packaging.

The Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) and Marketing Organisation for Farmers have imposed tough measures on rice control and rice in the 2011/2012 stocks is in good quality.

He said the second round of rice pledging scheme for this year’s crop was begun Feb 1 and it is estimated that at least seven million tonnes of paddy will be purchased by the state for Bt105 billion.

Mr Boonsong said the opposition bloc’s allegation that the government lost more than Bt250 billion from rice subsidy scheme is incorrect, confirming that the Commerce Ministry has administered the scheme within the allocated budget of Bt410 billion plus a circulating fund of Bt90 billion for the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and the government in managing the programme.

No additional funds have been sought from the government, he said, adding that the Foreign Trade Department has already paid over Bt113 billion to the BAAC.

The opposition has been trying to create misunderstanding among the public, he said.

The commerce minister said negotiations for rice sales on government-to-government and merchant-to-merchant bases have continued and the ministry is holding talks to sell about 7-8 million tonnes of rice to several countries including South Korea, China and South Africa.

The PWO is negotiating to sell packaged rice at five kg per bag to potential buyers and the deal should be struck in the next few months, he added.

He expressed confidence that Thailand will sell at least 7-8 million tonnes of rice this year despite the appreciating Thai baht.