Myanmar rice exports face backlash in African market

The Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) guaranteed the quality of Myanmar-produced rice after the Ivory Coast last week said it had destroyed over 18,000 tonnes of rice originating from Myanmar, deeming the produce unfit for human consumption.

Three Myanmar companies had sold over 20,000 tonnes of rice to Singapore-headquartered Olam International Co Ltd. The cargo left Yangon port in September 2018 and was shipped on board the bulk carrier MV Ocean Prince to Guinea, West Africa, from which Olam would redistribute the rice across Africa, according to the MRF and the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

However, traders in Guinea claimed the rice from Myanmar weighed only 45 kilograms per bag and not the standard 50kg in the market. As news spread, other traders across Africa refrained from purchasing the rice, according to the Myanmar authorities.

After a meeting in February with executives from Olam, the MOC agreed to accept a return shipment of the unsold rice which never came, the authorities said.

On April 17, the media reported that the Ivory Coast had destroyed 18,000 tonnes of rice from Myanmar after health declared the crop unfit for human consumption.

“This is an unusual case. One reason for this could be the long period of time – seven months – the rice was being shipped on board but it is not related to the original quality of Myanmar rice. We continue to export rice to other countries without any issue,” MRF chair U Ye Min Aung said during a press conference yesterday.

“We sold rice based on the freight on board system and the inspection agency of the buyer checked the shipment and accepted it based on the quality and weight. We sold over 20,000 tonnes of rice to Olam, 13,000 tonnes of which was shipped by the MV Ocean Prince and the remainder on board a separate ship. Subsequently we exported rice on 17 other ships. The issues only arose for the first shipment on the MV Ocean Prince,” said U Lu Maw Myint Maung, managing director of Shwe Wah Yaung Company, one of the rice exporters involved in selling rice to Olam.

U Aung Htoo, deputy minister of the MOC said the case had damaged the reputation of Myanmar’s rice exports, but that it should also serve as a wakeup call for the country’s traders. “We need the government and the private sector to cooperate closely to develop the rice trading sector and prevent such incidents from happening again,” he said.

Myanmar exported 2.3 million tonnes of rice from April 2018 to March 2019, of which up to 40 percent was exported to the African market, according to the MRF.

Source: Myanmar Times

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