Corporation claims it was duly treated
The Ethiopian Trade Corporation has vehemently deniedthe recent social media reports regarding an allegedimportation of a contaminated wheat consignment, which was deemed unfit for consumption. The Corporation toldThe Reporterthat the accusation is completely untrue.
It is to be recalled that over the past week, informationcame out regarding 55,000 metric tons of wheat, which was imported to Ethiopia through Port of Djibouti,although it was said be not fitfor consumption and a public safety hazard.
It was in fact former Ambassador to Djibouti and now reassigned to United Arab Emirates,SuilemanDedefo, who first put the information out in the social media space.
“Yes, it was me who posted the information,” Ambassador Suileman confirmed to The Reporter.
According to his post, the aforementioned amount of bulk wheat, which was bought by the Corporation from a company called Promising International Trading Co. Dmcc – a major supplier of wheat to the Ethiopia market— was not allegedly suitable for human consumption. The Ambassador in a similar post also alleged that the wheat in such condition wasa complete waste and it was totally impossible to recover it through a treatment process.
However, the Corporation deniesall of these allegations.
The bulk was part of 200,000 metric tons of wheat,which the Corporation bought via the Public Procurement and Property Disposal Service, a government procuring entity. Back then, the company was awarded with 1.56 billion birr to supply the wheat after it gave the least price.
Following the award the Corporation has imported 100,000 metric tons of wheat from the total consignments, The Reporter learnt. The wheat which was imported was also distributed to flour factories and bakeries across the country.
“What was reported on the social media is totally false and misleading,” said MengistuKebede, CEO of the Corporation. The fact of the matter is that we took delivery of wheat shipment in two consecutive rounds composed of 45,000 metric tons and 55,000 metric tons.
Usually, as a standard, the supplier has to produce certificationattesting that the wheat to be shipped to Ethiopia was treated with globally recognized chemicals that has no harm in human health, explain Mengistu.
So in this case, for instance, for the 55,000 metric tons, there was no any problem as it was claimed since the wheat imported to the country was thoroughly assessed by Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise (ECAE), he said.
According to a quality assurance letterthe Enterprise wrote to the Corporation dated January 10, 2019, the bulk (55,000 metric tons) consignment fulfills all the quality standards and was suitable for human consumption.
The letter also indicated that the wheat has passed the eight parameters listed including live insect free, sound grain as well as moisture content.
This particular bulk didn’t even need any treatment; it wasn’t stored in warehouses as it was claimed.So, after the quality assessment and assurance it was transported to Ethiopia, said Mengistu.
He, however, said that the shipment imported in November/December, 2018, which was a consignment of 45,000 metric tons, was indeed treated with chemicals at sea on the port of Djibouti.
When it comes to the second batch, some of the wheat, after it came to the port and then prepared for transfer to Ethiopia, was foundto be exposed to live insect, an insider sources revealed toThe Reporter.
Usually, even if the wheatis treated with chemicals from the destination port, because the journey would take months, there couldbe cases where the bulk will be exposed to insects, the same source said.
The finding was just one hatch out the four hatches in the ship which was exposed to insects, TsagyeBerhe, inspection director at ECAE, told The Reporter.
“So what we did was we send back the ship to the sea for ten days and the whole bulk was treated with chemicals,” he said.
This wasn’t just a simple process there are many actors involved, said Tsegaye. And the allegations are likely made with this knowledge.
So like any international practice, we look into the wheat and treated it with chemicals which are common practices everywhere in the world, said Mengistu. So, after treating it with chemicals, we via ECAE assessed the quality of the bulk and it was found to be suitable for human consumption.
“Treating wheat or any grain with chemical with the accepted standard is a common practice,” an expert in food fortification and nutrition industry, told The Reporter.
Having passed through all the steps, the wheat was actually transported to the country and was already distributed to consumers almost a month ago, The Reporterhas learnt.
The Corporation, in its letter sent to The Reporter, has also indicated that anyconcerned body can check the facts on the ground and that “its doors are open”.
“Following the report on social media, we have tried to check the facts with the Corporation and found the allegationsto be totally wrong,” an official from Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service, told The Reporter.
Suileman,on his part,confirmed toThe Reporter that he has come across the information on his private capacity and that he does not have any documentation that supports his claims.
After I disclosed the information, I was contacted by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I was told that they would investigate, he said.