June 20, 2014 00:00 By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Test of quality after reports of mix with inferior grains
In response to concerns over rice quality, the Foreign Trade Department is sending inspection missions to mainland China and Taiwan.
The Commerce Ministry had received some complaints about Thai rice being combined with inferior grains, affecting the image of the commodity and threatening export growth.
Director-general Surasak Riangkrul said the department would dispatch an official inspection team to Xiamen, Shanghai and Taipei this month to test the quality of Thai rice exported to those markets.
Taiwan and the mainland are major importers of Thai jasmine rice. However, some shipments have reportedly been contaminated with other grains, and some consumers have complained about quality.
Surasak said that normally prices of Thai jasmine rice were higher than produce from other countries, but because of its reputation for good quality, consumers did not mind paying a little more. However, some importers or traders have cheated consumers by mixing it with inferior rice grains to lower their costs, damaging the reputation of Thai jasmine rice in many markets, mainly Greater China and Singapore, where this variety is favoured.
He said the mission would focus on Thai rice sold by supermarkets directly to consumers.
The ministry will also look into allegations that some rival rice-exporting countries were illicitly copying Thai trademarks and brands and claiming that they were selling Thai jasmine rice.
The department has registered the “Hom Mali” trademark to guarantee the purity of Thai jasmine rice in 46 jurisdictions worldwide, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. If any traders have illegally copied the trademark or claim falsely to be selling Thai jasmine rice, they will subject to copyright law.
Surasak said the department would stringently inspect rice quality and encourage every Thai rice exporter to apply for Hom Mali certification so that consumers will be assured of the product’s quality, as each rice pack will be certified by the Thai government.
The department’s delegation to Taiwan will meet with the Council of Agriculture to exchange information about Thai rice, as well as meet with local rice importers and retailers.
On the mainland, the department’s team will meet with government officials and rice traders, and survey supermarkets to inspect rice quality and verify trademarks.
Mainland China is the second-largest importer of Thai jasmine rice after Hong Kong. Last year, export of Thai jasmine rice to the mainland rose 14 per cent from 2012 to 130,000 tonnes, valued at Bt4.43 billion or up 13 per cent.
Demand for Thai jasmine rice in Taiwan has risen over the past three years. In 2013, Taiwan imported 6,000 tonnes, valued at Bt196 million, up by almost 50 per cent year on year in terms of both volume and value.