Sunday, March 7

Artificial rice unlikely to enter Sarawak market, says authority

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KUCHING: The state’s Padi and Rice Division under Agriculture and Agro Based Industry Ministry (MOA) has assured all that there is little possibility for the controversial artificial rice entering the local market.

According to division’s director Ismail Sahari, the state has not been importing rice from China over the past 20 years; thus it is very unlikely for the fake grains to be sold here.

“At the moment, we have not received reports or complaints on the discovery of artificial rice in our market,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He also said rice importers were required to have approved permits (AP), adding that the constant close monitoring of the grade and quality of rice brought into the state would ensure that the supply comply with the nation’s food safety and quality standards.

According to Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), Vietnam, Thailand and Pakistan are currently the main rice exporters to Sarawak.

Heading: Division to work closely with ministry on rice import

“We will still be monitoring the market and working closely with the KPDNKK (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry), despite that we have not been importing rice from China,” Ismail said, adding that his division’s headquarters in Putrajaya had issued directives to all divisions nationwide requiring them to remain vigilant and continue with their monitoring efforts.

State KPDNKK director Dato Stanley Tan, when contacted, also said his side had yet to hear any complaint on the sale of artificial rice in Sarawak.

“We will also be keeping tabs on the sale of rice and monitor our (consumer) complaints hotline.”

Meanwhile, a source close to the ministry said the whole artificial rice issue could not be verified as information based on news reports was rather sketchy.

According to the source, rice is a very cheap commodity in China, which is able to produce a yearly output of around 130 million tonnes – for both local consumption and export market.

“This questions the logic as to why someone would produce artificial rice. The production cost, which includes that for polishing the grains, would be very high and will affect its selling price,” the source said.

The controversial issue had been making headlines across Asean, in which it stated that it was possible to manufacture artificial rice by mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and synthetic resin or plastic together. It is said that the target markets are countries with large rural population such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Apparently, the reports also highlighted the danger of the fake grains to the human digestive system.

An online news portal explained that the artificial rice would remain solid even after being boiled for hours, while the resin used to mold the ‘grain’ would emit the smell of burnt plastics whenever it got heated.

A press statement from the Health Ministry (MOH) said it would continue to monitor the situation closely.

“We would duly update the public if there’re new findings concerning food safety,” said the ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. At the same time, he advised consumers who were suspicious of the authenticity of rice in the market to notify the ministry via the nearest Health Office, or by accessing the Food Safety and Quality (FSQ) Division on http://fsq.moh.gov.my.