NIGERIA – Growing concerns and fears are emerging over the possibility of Thailand’s 10-year-old stored rice finding its way into the Nigerian and African markets as Thai’s government announced plans to sell to the public.

The concerns stem from Thailand’s plans to auction the 150,000 sacks of rice that had been kept in warehouses for 10 years.

The move is expected to generate between 200 to 400 million baht (US$ 5.4M to US$10.8M). While this may seem like a lucrative endeavour for Thailand, it has sparked widespread criticism from both citizens and food safety experts.

The concerns come at a time when African countries have become a major destination for Thai rice as purchasing volume continues to surge substantially, with significant volumes being shipped to nations such as South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Côte d’Ivoire.

Despite Nigeria’s absence from the list of top importers due to previous foreign exchange restrictions aimed at boosting local production, smuggling through neighbouring countries remains a prevalent issue.

Experts have warned about the potential health hazards posed by consuming rice that has been stored for such an extended period.

Consequently, Nigerians have taken to social media platforms to express their apprehension regarding the safety of this rice, particularly in a country where food safety regulations are not rigorously enforced.

Questions about the nutritional value of the aged rice have also surfaced, with some wondering whether it retains any significant nutrients after a decade of storage.

James Marsh, an executive director of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), emphasized that the nutritional value of such rice would likely be negligible, with toxins and harmful chemicals possibly present due to the storage conditions.

According to Marsh, “There are currently zero nutrients in the rice that have been stored for 10 years, adding that the most you can store grain, especially rice should not exceed 5 years.

He said toxins and harmful chemicals might be heavily present in the rice depending on the kind of chemical being used at the warehouses for its storage over the 10 years.

He, therefore, warned that porous borders could facilitate the entry of the aged rice into Nigeria, urging government agencies such as NAFDAC and SON to take proactive measures to prevent its infiltration.

Shittu Akinyemi, a professor of food science, underscored the importance of proper handling and storage conditions for preserving food safety.

While acknowledging that grains can be stored for extended periods, he cautioned that prolonged storage could affect the quality of the rice, diminishing its appeal to consumers.

Ageing also takes place in rice and once it ages, it will not be enjoyed as a premium.”

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