jasmine rice Dropping of suit 'must be probed'
Compensation of govt essential: millers
The Thai Rice Millers' Association has urg-ed the Commerce Ministry to set up another investigative committee to probe the with-drawal of a lawsuit against 57 warehouse-owners involved in
the jasmine-rice quality scandal.
Without legal action the
government will lose more than Bt1 billion, said Pramote Vanichanont, president of the association.
Pramote said the association had asked caretaker Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to investigate.
"It will weaken the ministry
if 57 warehouse operators are
not forced to compensate the
government for the loss," he
said, adding: "The ministry
will face problems in the criminal case because it expired in December."
The Democrat Party urged the ministry to take legal action after the investigation turned up suspects.
The ministry appointed Pol General Sereepisut Taemeeyaves head of the first investigation committee.
About 500,000 tonnes of jasmine rice from the 2004-2005 harvest has been languishing in warehouses. The warehouse operators included the country's major rice-exporters Chia Meng, CP Intertrade, President Agri Trading and Tong Hua.
"Nobody wants to pay a high price for mixed rice, because the quality of jasmine rice is different from that of Pathum Thani rice," he said.
Jasmine rice costs Bt17 per kilogram, Pathum Thani Bt13.
Pramote said exporters did not want to buy low-quality rice at the price of jasmine rice and a fair price was Bt15.
At Bt15 the government would lose more than Bt1 billion as the government price is Bt21-Bt22. The government has to stock rice under its subsidy programme to ensure farmers can sell at a high price.
"An urgent task for the government is to force the warehouse operators involved to buy back all the stock so as to cut losses," Pramote said.
Sompong Kitireanglarp, president of Ponglarp Co Ltd, also urged the government to release the jasmine-rice stock.
"Nobody wants to buy the old stock, because the quality would be inferior to fresh stock," Sompong said, noting that the government had to pay Bt300-Bt400 per tonne owing to the deterioration in quality.
A source at the ministry, however, said it would not take legal action against the warehouses because it would be expensive and time-consuming.