Officials in Jamaica are still scratching their heads over how plastic rice was disguised as real rice and was imported to the island nation. A report on Television Jamaica that aired on December 11 showed a woman trying to cook the fake grain.
Authorities from Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), the Ministry of Health and other agencies, said during a press conference that the source of the product has not been identified or if it was ever stocked in Jamaica’s stores. “...If it is smuggled in it is going to be most difficult to track because we have no information; and remember that our ports are porous so we have to keep that in mind. We also have to keep in mind that if indeed there’s plastic rice it can originate from here also, not imported. So we have to be mindful of those facts,” said JCA official Karlene Henry.
Henry said that samples have been taken from supermarkets in Manchester, Jamaica, where the fake rise was allegedly purchased. Nationwide sampling will be done to determine the origin. For the time being, Jamaican customs officials have suspended the import of rice.
“We have commenced investigations into the allegations and we have started by collecting samples at certain locations. These samples will be tested by BSJ and follow-up action will be taken by the CAC if it’s found that it is indeed the plastic rice,” said Albert Anderson, who heads the customs office contraband enforcement team.
Sanctions are expected to be levied on those who trafficked the fake rice, if authorities determine that it was imported deliberately. Albertson said violators would be in breach of the Customs Act and could be fined up to $500,000 and the goods seized.
Jamaica imports rice from the United States, India, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, Guyana, Thailand, China, and Suriname. The import ban sparked fears of a rice shortage. In Jamaica, peas and rice are a national staple food. While so far Jamaica authorities have not found fake rice in the samples probed, they are allowing rice imported from Suriname and Guyana.