Shipment term

Food Ministry orders reshipment of infested soybean ship

The Department of Plant Protection (DPP), a department attached to the Ministry of Food Safety and Research (MoFS&R) has captured a heavily infested oilseed ship and ordered it to be reshipped.

According to official sources, a vessel ‘MV Yangze 6’ carrying 556.36 metric tons of soybeans worth Rs 6 billion from Brazil was stopped at Karachi Port after being found to be heavily infested.

Following a quarantine inspection by the DPP at Karachi Port, the vessel was found heavily infested with aflatoxins, fungal diseases and live insect pests with a bad smell. In accordance with Pakistan’s quarantine rules, the sample was sent to registered government laboratories for testing.

According to the documents available with this scribe, the laboratory of the HEJ Industrial Analytical Center, after testing the samples, found that the aflatoxin in soybeans was 25 parts per billion (ppb), which was well above the maximum limit allowed 20 ppb.

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Aflatoxin is a potent liver toxin known to cause cancer in animals. In pigs, aflatoxin can lead to reduced weight gain, reduced ability to resist disease, hepatitis and death. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established action levels of 20 ppb for cereals and food products, and 0.5 ppb for milk.

A DPP official says high levels of aflatoxins are causing cancers and other food safety issues in Pakistan. These will contaminate the entire food chain of the country including human health, edible oils, poultry industry, animal feed and spread disease in agriculture.

Following the lab results, the DPP issued the ship reshipment order on March 22, 2022. As per the order, the shipment/container will be confiscated and destroyed or deported to the country of origin within seven days from the date of issue of the order for which the importer will submit the reshipment invoices for the necessary visa, failing which they will be destroyed/confiscated at his expense according to the methods prescribed by the phytosanitary adviser.

However, informed insiders, importers and the influential lobby are trying to get the ship cleared through the relevant ministries and authorities.

Interestingly, according to sources, the infested consignment was detected after dozens of similar consignments were cleared this year, showing how much substandard oilseeds are being imported and cleared for consumption in the country.

“Influential importing groups usually buy lower quality oilseed vessels at lower prices and manage to clear them. They are also trying to free this ship as they have done in the past. It will be the success of the mafia and against national interests if this substandard vessel is released,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

According to insiders, no one at the DPP, including its chief executive Muhammad Tariq Khan, was willing to take the risk of authorizing the highly infested shipment with the lab reports in mind. The DG ordered the ship to be reshipped, but it was still at anchor in Qasim Port as importers tried to manage the shipment.