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HC asks govt if Brazil wheat suitable for consumption

26The High Court on Tuesday directed the food ministry secretary and the director-general of the directorate of food to explain to the court in 72 hours as to whether the wheat imported and released by the ministry is suitable for human consumption, as newspapers ran conflicting reports over it.
A bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul-Hoque and Justice Abu Taher Md. Saifur Rahman also asked the director-general to submit compliance report in 72 hours with supporting laboratory reports.
The court also set July 5 for passing order on the issue.
The court passed the order after hearing a writ petition by a Dhaka court lawyer Pavel Miah placing reports carried out by seven national dailies and a news agency stating that wheat was not suitable for compensation.
Before passing the order, the court detected the word ‘substandard’ wheat as described by the petitioner in the writ.
The court, however, did not pass any order on the petitioner’s prayer for investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission to find out whether any corruption was committed in the import and distribution of ‘substandard’ wheat from Brazil worth Tk 400 crore.
The court also did not pass any order on another prayer seeking directive on the government to explain the legality of import and distribution of the ‘substandard’ wheat.
Supreme Court Bar Association secretary Mahbub Uddin Khokon moved the writ petition.
Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in its test report submitted on June 28 commented that ‘all the supplied samples contained higher amount of shrunken and broken kernels than the supplied specifications’.
It also said that the damage percentage is also higher in all samples except the wheat collected from Kurgram, Narail, Gaibandha and Sirajganj. The food ministry sent samples from 14 districts for the laboratory test.
The food ministry, however, did not seek any report on the quality of the food grain although government agencies including police, Border Guard Bangladesh and Ansar had already refused to take the Brazilian wheat, raising question about its quality.
Amidst widespread criticism against the substandard wheat being distributed, the ministry in a statement on June 28 claimed that the parameters of the wheat imported from Brazil were found within the normal limits and the test report had found no such wheat unsuitable for human consumption.
Food ministry’s deputy secretary Kawsar Ahmad issued the statement following media reports.
The food ministry on Tuesday morning initiated another fresh move to have another test report on the wheat from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute again on the basis the parameters set for the procurement of the food grain from Brazil.
Five samples collected from Manikganj, Barisal, Comilla, Feni and Rangpur were readied to be sent to BARI for examinations. But in the afternoon, the decision was cancelled following the HC order for submitting test reports confirming whether the wheat was suitable for consumption.
The government in February imported two lakh tons of wheat from Brazil through international tender and by the time 85 per cent of the wheat was so far distributed among people through different channels, said food directorate officials.
It has not taken any decision to withdraw the remaining 30,000 tons of Brazilian wheat from the country’s warehouses, they said.
Asked for his comment, director-general of the directorate of food Foiz Ahmed told New Age on Tuesday that the Brazilian wheat had been found consumable and was therefore distributed among people through different channels.
‘We have recently stopped distribution of Brazilian wheat among police and BGB personnel as they have raised objections,’ he said.
Amidst controversies, food minister Qamrul Islam told Parliament on June 20 that Bangladesh would not procure any more wheat from Brazil. ‘We’ll not bring this again. This (wheat) even looks bad.’
He, however, claimed that the wheat was not rotten.