In Thailand

Decade-old Thailand rice may find way to Nigeria, Africa – BusinessDay

Written by World News

Growing concerns and fears are emerging in Africa’s most populous country over the possibility of Thailand’s 10-year-old stored rice entering the Nigerian and African markets as the Thai government announced plans to sell it to the public, BusinessDay of Nigeria has reported.

Thailand plans to auction 150,000 sacks of rice that have been kept in warehouses for 10 years, expecting to earn between 200 to 400 million baht (US$5.4 to 10.8 million), a move that has been heavily criticized by its citizens and food safety experts.

Since the announcement by the Thai authorities, Nigerians have taken to social media to voice their concern about the potentially adverse impacts the rice may have on people’s health if it eventually finds its way to Africa, particularly Nigeria, where food safety and regulation checks are not taken seriously, the online said.

“10 years old, is the nutrient still there?” asked @NwaOnyekuzi in an X tweet, while @Kdenkss tweeted, “This is embarrassing, and I am sure some of the rice will end up in Nigeria.”

Also, Labaeka, with the X handle @labeakai, tweeted, “As usual, Africa sits perfectly as the dumping ground.”

African countries have become a major destination for Thai rice as purchasing volume continues to surge substantially, the Thai Rice Exporter Association said on its website.

In the 2023-2024 season, Thailand was the second-largest rice exporter globally, with 8.2 million metric tons, according to data from Statista.

Africa’s top 10 rice importers from Thailand in 2023 are South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Côte d’Ivoire; combined, they imported 2.48 million tons within the period, the data shows, according to BusinessDay online.

Followed by Zimbabwe with 55,691 tons, Algeria with 76,747 tons, Angola with 135,909 tons, Benin with 139,206 tons, and Togo.

While Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, may not be on the list owing to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s previous policy of foreign exchange restriction for rice importers to boost local production, most of the imports recorded by Benin and Togo find their way into Nigerian markets via smuggling through the land borders.

James Marsh, a food safety expert and executive director of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), said the 10-year-old rice will contain zero nutrients as most of them must have been completely depleted.

He said toxins and harmful chemicals might be heavily present in the rice depending on the kind of chemicals used in the warehouses for its storage over the 10 years.

“There are currently zero nutrients in the rice that has been stored for 10 years. The most you can store grain, especially rice, should not exceed 5 years,” Marsh noted.

“Unfortunately, it will find its way into Nigeria because of our porous borders,” Marsh stressed.

“The Nigerian government has to act now by ensuring the rice does not enter the country once it is auctioned, and that is the job of NAFDAC and SON. The rice has a batch number which can be used to trace it,” he advised.

Shittu Akinyemi, a professor of food science at the Federal University of Agriculture, noted that food safety has two determinants – how it is handled and the kind of chemical applied for its preservation.

He added that grains can be stored for a long period, noting that people tend to be sensitive to long-term stored food products. “Aging also takes place in rice, and once it ages, it will not be enjoyed as a premium.”

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