THE INFECTED AUSTRALIAN WHEAT
It is the second incident in which the food stuff from Australia has been rejected
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Mar 22 - 28, 2004
Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) has officially informed to Tradesman International, the importing company of Australian wheat, that it upholds the decision about rejection of the imported Australian wheat after finding it unfit for human consumption.
Consequently, the tenders floated for purchase of 0.150 million ton of wheat stand cancelled. The tenders were won by Tradesman International, a Pakistani company for the import of wheat from an Australian firm which had offered the second lowest rates in response to the tenders. The lowest rates were offered by an Indian firm which was also rejected on good grounds.
The decision to reject the infected wheat was made on the finding of kernel bunt in test report. The tests of the Australian wheat standing at Karachi port for clearance were carried out at the National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) Laboratories, which confirmed presence of kernel bunt as well as less percentage of gluten. Earlier, the similar tests were also conducted by PCSIR. All parties involved in this trade were bound to accept the results of the tests as terms and conditions of the tender. Earlier, the Federal Cabinet had also rejected the injected wheat and had asked the PASSCO to ensure compliance of all the contractual obligations between the two parties.
It is learnt that the Union Bank had already made the payments worth $34 million or Rs1.6 billion for the purchase of the wheat as the importer had opened LC with Union Bank. Since the tenders now stand cancelled, it is yet to be seen the mechanism for refund of the amount paid by the bank.
Amazingly, it is the second incident in which the food stuff from Australia has been rejected by Pakistan authorities on health grounds. Earlier, a vessel carrying Australian sheep suffering from some deadly disease were also rejected by Pakistan authorities. In fact, it is a matter of serious concern because dispatch of food stuff which is unfit for human consumption especially by a developed country like Australia is something serious as well as funny. It amounts to trifle with the human lives only for a few bucks which are a clear cut violation of the health rules. It is the time that the WHO which supervises the health concerns of the globe should take a note of such incidents seriously to avoid recurrence of such health hazardous trade deals on the part of the exporters. These countries responsible for sending infected food stuff should be made clear that Pakistan was a not a dumping ground for damaged food stuff.
The authorities who checked the diseased food stuff and put their foot down against the clearance of the damaged wheat deserve recognition by the people; a dishonest move in this respect could have easily allowed the rejected wheat to penetrate into the local market. We must recognize the honesty of those officials, especially in an environment of rampant corruption in this country. The exporters of the affected food stuff may have in their mind that it may not be difficult to get clearance of the damaged food grains by pleasing the corrupt at the port.
One may recall that some European Countries had put a ban on import of sea food from Pakistan only on the basis of unsatisfactory packaging facilities at the fisheries. Japan and the United States continued to put a ban on import of mangoes from Pakistan because of unsatisfactory arrangements against alleged fruit flies in Pakistan. Although Pakistani mangoes are much popular the world over and have find a respectable place in the world market, some of the developed countries are stick to the imposition of ban on the import of mangoes from Pakistan.
There is a time for the authorities in Pakistan to raise question about the dispatch of unhealthy food stuff into Pakistan to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future as well.
It is worth mentioning here that the flour prices which had shot up to the level of Rs18 per kg had started to subside with the arrival of the fresh crop in the market. However, there is a mad rush for lifting of the wheat of the new crop by the profiteers to take maximum benefits of crisis. The flour mills are lifting the wheat from the market at a price of Rs400 per 40 kg against the procure price of Rs350 per 40 kg fixed by the government.
According to an estimate, even after the normalcy returns, the flour price may increase at least by 17 percent because of the raise of Rs50 given to the growers by the provincial government. The wheat support price has been enhanced from Rs300 per 40 kg to Rs350 per 40 kg which ultimately result in higher price of flour in the province of Sindh.
The government of Sindh in order to procure wheat had set up 200 procurement centers all over the province. However, the government had given a talk over to the flour mills to lift the fresh crop so that the ever increasing prices of flour could come to pre-crisis period. It is however said that the honey moon of the profiteers is now over as the arrival of the fresh crop is picking up gradually. It is estimated that the flour prices may come down to Rs12 per kg early next month.