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Government slams call for rice checks

Posted by pakin On July - 31 - 2017

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd has accused politicians and rice mill owners who are calling for a new inspection of rice stocks under the controversial rice-pledging scheme of being part of a politically-motivated movement.

Lt Gen Sansern said it was no coincidence the movement comes just before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions is to hand down its ruling in the rice-pledging case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Aug 25.

“This could be seen as an attempt to create some kind of impact on the case or a bid to draw public sympathy for Ms Yingluck,” he said.

“The Commerce Ministry has already explained on several occasions its principles in releasing the rice under the scheme,” he added.

He said some groups are still attempting to claim that good-quality rice has been sold along with the bad-quality stock, which made the rice prices drop.

“The irony is that most of these groups will actually be held responsible for losses associated with bad-quality rice kept at the scheme’s warehouses,” he said.

Previously, the owners of eight rice warehouses had called on the government to conduct a new round of quality checks on rice under the scheme, saying they weren’t confident in the results of past inspections conducted by officials.

According to warehouse owners, normal rice was auctioned along with rice used for producing animal feed, which is a waste of money.

They claimed they weren’t aware of the government’s intention to sell the rice as ingredients in animal feed until the days on which the auctions were held.

They added their move should help prevent further losses that could be worth several billion baht.

Itsaraphon Khongchawi, the owner of Worachot warehouse in Ang Thong, was the first to come up with a call for new inspection of the rice, saying she was confident the rice kept at her warehouse under the rice-pledging scheme was of good quality and was never intended to be sold as animal feed.

She said she had not been aware that one stack of C-grade rice at the warehouse would be sold along with four other stacks of rice graded as A and B — edible to humans — as animal feed.

If this 6,000 tonnes of rice is sold as animal feed, the government will face a further loss of at least 30 million baht, Ms Itsaraphon said.

The owner of Thawon Chokchai rice warehouse in Saraburi said although one half of the stock at his warehouse is of good A-grade quality while the other half is of C-grade quality, a random test conducted in 2014 showed all the rice in this warehouse was of C-grade quality, which has to be sold as animal feed.

According to the owner of Kit Charoen Sap warehouse in Lop Buri, given the 5.7 million tonnes of rice already sold as animal feed, the government is estimated to have lost more than 2 billion baht.

Wongwirot Palawat, the owner of Charoen Prapha warehouse in Lop Buri, insisted the move to call for a new inspection of the rice stock by the eight warehouse owners wasn’t politically motivated.

“The Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) has always responded in a formal letter to every complaint by these owners of rice warehouses and mills as well as the surveyor companies contracted to handle rice quality inspections,” DFP director-general Duangporn Rodphaya said.

“More importantly, these warehouses are the ones facing lawsuits lodged against them by both the Public Warehouse Organisation and the Marketing Organisation for Farmers over the substandard quality of the rice kept there under the rice scheme.

“Official results of the rice inspection that began in 2014 have been made public and used as evidence to pursue legal action against those who are held responsible for the damage in the rice scheme.

“At this point the eight warehouses have the right to make legal arguments and back their arguments with whatever facts they may have, but they won’t be able to request for new inspection of the rice as that process has already passed.”

“Nor do they have any right to suspend the government from selling the rice as the longer the rice sale is delayed, more damage will occur to the state,” she said, adding that the sales of rice from the eight warehouses have been completed under the rice policy and management committee’s resolution.

 

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