THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has brushed aside requests for a special order to open up warehouses to verify rice quality to see if it is still good for human consumption.
Col Winthai Suwaree, the NCPO spokesman, said the Commerce Ministry is responsible for responding to the Pheu Thai party’s claims that the government had sold rice in its inventory for feedmill production at a low price.
This has resulted in a heavy loss estimated to exceed Bt10 billion, according to Yuttapong Charassathien, a former Pheu Thai MP who doubted that the ongoing sale of 2.4 million tonnes of government-owned rice was implemented properly.
Winthai said Yuttapong should seek further information from the Commerce Ministry, which said it has reasons to justify its decision to sell the large quantity of rice at a relatively low price.
Earlier, Yuttapong, a former deputy agriculture minister, said he had evidence that the Commerce Ministry did not sell the rice to a company, named CPS Co, which offered to buy the government’s stock at about Bt9,000 per tonne.
Instead, he said, the ministry later sold the same rice to other firms at a price of only Bt4,000 per tonne for use as feedmill rather than human consumption.
As a result, Yuttapong asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to exercise his power under Article 44 of the interim charter to re-open warehouses for the public to help verify the quality of rice.
Duangporn Rodprayad, director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade, said the selling price is not the only factor in managing the huge inventory that resulted from the previous Yingluck government’s unlimited rice-pledging scheme. The government needed to take into account warehouse, interest and rice treatment expenses as well as impacts on human and animal health, Duangporn said.
The huge inventory was acquired under the previous government’s rice-pledging scheme at a cost of Bt22,000-23,000 per tonne for white rice and Bt29,000-30,000 for Hom Mali rice.
According to the Commerce Ministry, the quality of rice had deteriorated due to an extended period of storage and was no longer suitable for human consumption, so it was sold to the feedmill industry at a lower price.
Yuttapong said CPS Co, the company previously contracted by the ministry, had insisted that the rice was still good for people’s consumption so it should not be sold to the feedmill industry.
The former deputy agriculture ministry also urged Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn to attend to the verification process to see if the rice inventory was still good for human consumption.
Yuttapong also said CPS Co had twice sent letters to the Department of Foreign Trade seeking a review of the sale of rice at a low price.
When it took office more than three years ago, the Prayut government inherited a huge rice inventory of 18 million tonnes from the previous government’s rice-pledging scheme. Over the past three years, 3.5-4 million tonnes of rice have been sold annually at a loss to ease the government’s burden.
The last inventory of 2.87 million tonnes has been in the process of being sold, consisting of 167,000 tonnes of rice for people’s consumption, 2.14 million tonnes for feedmill, and 568,000 tonnes for the energy sector.