Colombia returning large paddy shipment after detecting fungus

The Colombian Farming Institute (CFI) has announced that 1,000 tonnes of local paddy found to be contaminated with “an identified exotic disease” will be returned to Guyana, a  Reuters report on Saturday said.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that Saj Rice Mills (SRM) is the company which exported the paddy to Colombia. Efforts made to contact officials at SRM yesterday were futile but the company is expected to issue a statement shortly.

SRM’s shipment was free of fungi when it left Guyana but this newspaper understands that the infection could have occurred while in Colombia. The same problem has affected a United States shipment to Colombia.

Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, when contacted by this newspaper yesterday said that he was aware of the situation and steps were being taken.

“I have directed the GRDB [Guyana Rice Development Board] to investigate the matter notwithstanding the company’s pronouncement that the shipment was free of any impurities or fungi when it left Guyana. I have asked that the Colombians, US and the Latin American rice research system – FLAR – be involved,“ Persaud told Stabroek News.

Reuters said that the 1,064 tons of rice will be returned to Guyana following the discovery of a fungus which corresponds to the Tilletia type.

The same fungus, Reuters said, was detected in 5, 493 tons of rice originating from the United States. Fearing a possible spread of the fungus in their territory, Colombia immediately ordered the rice transported back to its source.

Colombia has the shipment aboard a vessel docked at port Barranquilla in an attempt to isolate what the report described as an “identified exotic disease”. These procedures were executed to avoid possible contamination of Colombia’s cereals.

“All the agricultural imports that enter Colombia are put under a process of quality control”, Reuters said. The fungus identified during this process corresponds to the Tilletia sort plague – a type of fungi which targets cereals. Controlling such a fungus would increase production costs and products would not be marketable if contaminated.

The General Manager of CFI, Jaime Cardenas Lopez, according to Reuters, said that it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure that imports do not put Colombia’s national rice production at risk. Hence, the infected shipment worth US$2.6 million is safely stored aboard a vessel at port Barranquilla.

Colombia in December approved a tender to import 75,000 tons of paddy at zero duty to reduce the cost of the product in the local market.
The local rice industry has been straining to cope with much lower international prices this year for rice.

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