Iran to probe 'arsenic' rice imports

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec.8/ Trend F.Milad‎‏/‏

The imported Indian rice may be contaminated with chemicals like arsenic, head of Iran's Rice Guild Association said on Saturday.

There are rumors that the Indian Basmati rice which have been imported recently is contaminated with chemicals and some Indian officials have implicitly confirmed the claim, the Mehr News Agency quoted Jamil Alizadeh Shayegh as saying.

"The government should conduct the necessary tests as soon as possible," he added.

He went on to note that Iran will soon import rice from Uruguay.

In 2009, the Tehran Standard Institute of Industrial Research reportedly detected traces of arsenic, cadmium and lead in the rice imported from India.

The research proved that the arsenic level in imported Indian rice was 9.7 times higher than the standard level. Standard level of arsenic in rice is defined 0.00 - 0.10 PPM (part per million.)

The heavy metal of Cadmium is designated to be around 0.2 PPM. The research suggested the imported Indian rice contained more than 0.4 PPM.

Back then, Indian authorities implicitly confirmed the Iranian claim by asking farmers not to sow Basmati in areas that have high constituents of heavy metals.

There are many areas in Punjab where water and soil has concentration of heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead," Dr. B L Bhardwaj, Director of the Centre of Advanced Studies, Agriculture Department of Punjab said.

"If we grow crop there, the plants will have some constituents of them. So, farmers should try not to sow crop in such areas," he said.

Iran imported 775,000 tons of rice, valued at $758 million, in the first eight months of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20.

Compared to the same time last year, the figures show 12.01 percent increase in term of value, and 2.35 percent decrease in terms of volume.

India, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan were the main exporters of rice to Iran.

Iran plans to reach self-sufficiency in rice production in the next three years.

According to the Agriculture Jihad ministry's plan, Iran was supposed to reach self-sufficiency in the rice production field by the end of current Iranian calendar year (March 19, 2013), but the officials recently announced the plan needs 3 more years to be completed, the ISNA News Agency reported.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Iran's state grain buyer continues to build its strategic stocks in light of increased international prices and concerns about domestic food security. Reports indicate that in September 2012 Iran made large purchases of cereals on the international markets. Discussions are underway with specific trading partners.

Facing budgetary concerns, the government attempted to phase out the subsidy program. Although some subsidies for staples (milk, bread, rice, vegetables, yoghurt) remain in place, food prices have generally increased.

The latest official information available from the Central Bank published for the period from March 21 to April 20, 2012, indicates that the food and beverage price inflation reached 33 percent compared to the same period in 2011, and 5.3 percent compared to the preceding month in 2012. The year on year increase in 2011 for the same period was 25.3 percent.

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