KARACHI: Rice exporters and traders have ruled out there’s any such thing as “plastic rice” or rice mixed with plastic, after videos doing the rounds on social media asserted that plastic rice was being manufactured on a large scale in some countries and was smuggled into Pakistan as well.
Besides, the market is abuzz with reports that a person complained about purchasing rice from a leading superstore in Karachi and later claimed that it was plastic rice.
Rice is a staple in Pakistan. It is the third-largest crop after wheat and cotton in the country, and is grown over 10 per cent of the total cropped area, according to the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).
“There’s no such thing as plastic rice,” said Jawed Ali Ghori, a former chairman of REAP. “Plastic is costlier than rice. How can it be mixed with rice? Or how can plastic rice be consumed by humans as it will cause death?”
Mr Ghori said there should be no concern as Pakistanis ate only locally produced rice and the commodity was not imported. “Instead, China imports Basmati 86 rice and other varieties from Pakistan,” he said.
He said the government of Dubai has tested various qualities of rice arriving in the emirate and have found them fit for human consumption.
Another former chairman of REAP, Mohammad Rahim Janoo, said an “international mafia” was trying to destroy the rice trade. He said raids were conducted in some stores in Kenya and Nigeria on reports of the sale of plastic rice, but the authorities did not find anything.
Moreover, making rice from plastic was not feasible, he said. For instance, the export price of Irri-6 rice is $400-450 a tonne while raw plastic price is $850-900 a tonne.
The chairman of Pakistan Plastic Manufacturers Association, Ehteshamuddin, said plastic moulding compound (PMC) was costlier than rice and therefore nobody could mix plastic in rice or make plastic rice.
Giving an example, he said the average price of PMC was Rs75 a pound and it cost Rs165 a kilogram.
After processing, its price swells to Rs200 per kg. In contrast, the price of different varieties of rice hovers between Rs40 and Rs140 per kg. Another high-quality PMC carries the price of Rs125 per pound.
Pakistan imports 80-90pc of PMC from the Far East and the Middle East for making plastic products like household items, chairs and car bumpers.
The chairman of Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association, Anis Majeed, said there have been no reports so far of any smuggling or illegal arrival of plastic rice into Pakistan from any country.
The videos shared on the social media show that plastic rice is highly sticky and take a round or oval ball shape in hand before eating.
He said the new variety of any rice usually has stickiness, and Chinese were particularly fond of Pakistani basmati 86 and Irri rice from new crop.
Pakistan exported 409,669 tonnes of basmati rice in July-May fetching $383 million as compared to 439,662 tonnes ($407.7m) in the same period of last year, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Exports of other rice varieties fell to 2.89m tonnes ($1bn) during the same period as against 3.49m tonnes ($1.31bn) a year ago.
During the preceding fiscal year, rice was sowed on 2,724,000 hectares, almost the same area as compared with a year earlier. Rice production in 2016-17 stood at 6,849,000 tonnes, which was both higher than the year’s target and previous year’s production.
Rice area decreased due to decline in domestic prices of rice and growers shifted to sugarcane and maize crop.
Call on 800900 and 8000555 (Abu Dhabi) to dispel doubts
Rice being amongst predominant stable food items consumed on daily basis in The Gambia and most countries in the Sub-region and beyond, should never be abused, exploited and use as a tool for instilling fear and panic in people, knowing the implications of consuming.
Rumours about existence of an alleged plastic rice in town has occasioned serious concern from the general public at both domestic and international levels, especially Gambians abroad through relaying of what they called "bouncing unbreakable based ball made of the alleged plastic rice" on social media platform to either their relatives or associates back home.
This alleged video has attracted thousands of viewers both literates and illiterates as far as the most remote settlement of the country, characterized by consistent discussions and debate about its possible existence in our markets; how it found its way into the country and for what purpose, still continues to be an issue in the country.
Similar deep sense of concern has been exhibited by the government, through Food Safety and Quality Authority in a short precise rebuttal about rumour of the said plastic rice available for sale in our markets, like every other genuine food item.
The Authority's denial of the life threatening said product has greatly reduced tensions in town, despite many seemed not completely convinced about its none availability as the alleged video continues to take its share on weak and vulnerable minds.
The press release issued from the Food Authority supported by evidence of food inspectors' finding of no such available plastic rice in our markets, holds water and shows no cause for panic as such findings were based on professional trained skills in the world of detection and appreciation of bad food items in the country in line with terms and references guiding their professional code of conduct.
Though we could not verify the true origin of the alleged video in question, it's rather unfortunate that certain people could resort to such unacceptable and ungodly behaviour in the name of newly found democracy with assurance of freedom of speech, expression among other fundamental constitutional rights.
The inventor and source of spreading it in our motherland, could never be forgiven for causing such a terror and panic in the country, as well as its impact on the world of commerce in a country, with high dependence on importation of food items like rice.
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