Infested container found with holes, insects – Jamaican authorities
Confiscated rice from Guyana
By Shemuel Fanfair
One day after popular Essequibo Rice miller Wazir Hussein claimed nothing was wrong with the rice he exported and that his shipment was delivered to the buyers, authorities in the Caribbean island of Jamaica have offered a different account of events, telling Guyana Times on Thursday that holes and insects were discovered in the recently detained container shipping the produce.
This was stated by Chief Food Storage Officer Roy McNeil, who leads the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID) which is within Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF).
Last month, the FSPID confiscated 70 metric tonnes of Essequibo rice which McNeil, from his documentation, found that it officially entered the country on December 24, 2018.
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, McNeil also explained that the shipment was held at customs for some weeks before inspectors saw the infestation in January. Guyana Times understands that Wazir Hussein and Sons Rice Milling Complex in Essequibo Coast, Guyana, was the listed exporter, while the produce was sent to Jamaican Importer Master Mac Enterprises Limited.
“What is interesting about this case is that even though it came with a fumigation certificate, the container was infested with insects so it appears that the fumigation has failed because there were indications that there were holes in the container so the gases may have seeped out,” the McNeil said on Thursday.
He went on to explain that wetting caused mould growth to develop on the commodity. Therefore, the inspector at the Port of Entry upon realising it was infested, closed the container immediately and ordered fumigation.
“After fumigation, we do inspection and sampling and given the conditions, it caused [us] to send samples to the microbiologist’s lab and we found it was tested positive for bacteria way beyond the accepted limit,” McNeil emphasised.
He told this publication that the investigation is finished and the 1575 bags of rice said to be worth millions was detained based on the island’s regulations. Thereafter, a sample was taken and the microbial levels were found to be excessive. As the mould growth was unearthed, the department condemned the item and instituted procedures to destroy the produce within several days.
Guyana Times contacted the Jamaican importer for comment on the financial implications since the shipper was paid but this proved futile.
Local industry insiders expressed worry over the rejection for the tonnage as this could impact upon current or potential international importers, as some might show hesitancy in purchasing produce. However, as the Chief Food Storage Officer explained, inspections are done on a case-by-case basis.
“We have not taken any wholesale sanction against Guyana in no shape and form but each container that comes in will be subjected to routine inspection… as a Government regulatory body, we would not issue an adverse with regards to rice from Guyana except that we will continue our inspection [wherever] the rice is coming from,” the Jamaican told this newspaper.
“We deal directly with the importer and what we would have done was serve the necessary notice on the importer and the actions that would be taken. We also issued a disposal certificate,” McNeil further clarified.
The Jamaican official’s comments to this newspaper were made as the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) indicated that it was awaiting word from its regional counterpart to officially pronounce on its findings. Guyanese owner of the White Cinderella brand of rice, Hussein on Wednesday condemned the authenticity of the media reports and rejected the report that the buyer obtained spoilt rice. He had also claimed that he received an email where he was supposedly told that the container’s managers would have known if the rice was spoil or if it was wet.
However, the grains were inspected and was found to have signs of not only mould but clumping and discolouration. Reports had stated that the shipment landed in Jamaica on December 19, 2018 which contrasted the Jamaican official’s December 24 date. Guyana Times understands there is usually a delay at Jamaican customs during the Christmas period.
Local miller, Turhane Doerga, commented earlier this month that the GRDB should place more emphasis on quality testing before the rice is exported as such reports could jeopardise Guyana’s viability as a successful rice exporter.