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Dhaka Tribune

Food Minister Kamrul challenges critics of ‘rotten’ wheat

Update : 28 Jun 2015, 08:34 PM

Food Minister Kamrul Islam, who has been blamed for importing “rotten” wheat from Brazil, has challenged critics saying the quality of the grain is absolutely fine.

In an unofficial press briefing at the secretariat yesterday, the minister showed reporters two separate test reports conducted on the imported wheat.

The government imported 600,000 tonnes of wheat earlier this year under 12 international tenders. Of them, Singapore-based contractor Olam International supplied 200,000 tonnes of wheat, procured from Brazil, in February and March.

In mid-February, the Dhaka Tribune ran a story on suspected vomitoxin contamination in a wheat consignment, which was headed for Bangladesh from Brazil at that time. Olam International was supplying that lot. It is said that vomitoxin may lead to food poisoning symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness and fever.

Recently, media reports said around 200,000 tonnes of the imported wheat was substandard. There have been also reports that the police and BGB have refused to accept the imported wheat for ration.

Soon after, the Food Ministry collected sealed samples of wheat through the deputy commissioners from the across the country and got them tested at the Directorate General of Food and the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR).

Yesterday, the minister told reporters: “Tests have found that the wheat remains true to the parameters based on which it was imported from Brazil four months ago.”

After several media published the news of “rotten” wheat, a number of political parties, including the BNP, demanded Kamrul’s resignation.

“In spite of all these [the tests], if TIB, Sujon, journalists, political leaders or the left parties still have any doubts, I throw a challenge at them.

“They can collect wheat from any of our warehouses and get them tested in any laboratory of their choice. I will cooperate with them,” the minister said at the briefing yesterday.

When contacted, Foiz Ahamed, director general of the Directorate General of Food who led one of the tests, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that they had not found any rotten wheat in those shipments. In fact, the samples satisfied all the shipment-time specifications.

The 10 specific parameters against which the wheat was tested were: weight, heat damage, damage, presence of foreign materials, whether sunken and broken, contrasting plunk, wheat of other class, protein, moisture and dock-age.

In a one-on-one phone conversation with this reporter later yesterday, the food minister claimed that the media reports were “exaggerated and false.”

After the reports surfaced in the media, Sarwar Khan, former DG of the food directorate,was made an officer on special duty (OSD) at the Ministry of Establishment.

Asked about this transfer, Kamrul told the Dhaka Tribune that it was a matter of Ministry of Establishment and he does not know anything about it. 

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