Fri | Jun 9, 2023

Clarity on Blue Zone’s rice importation

Published:Monday | March 27, 2023 | 12:05 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I write this letter with reference to media reports where the impression was given that Blue Zone Limited imported unhealthy (substandard) rice and may have benefited from special favours in doing so. This is inaccurate and misleading.

The designation of ‘substandard’ by the media has created unnecessary alarm and given the impression that the rice is not fit for consumption. This could not be further from the truth; no regulatory authority in Jamaica has ever claimed that the safety of our product has been compromised. In fact, all shipments have passed the necessary health and safety checks and have been released into our possession after being inspected by the relevant regulatory bodies.

We import rice of the same quality and specifications, and, in many cases, from the same supplier that many large distributors in Jamaica source their product from as well. The truth behind this saga is that there is an industrywide classification and labelling issue where most, if not all, importers of broken rice are in breach. Unfortunately, this is not what has been presented to date, and Blue Zone has been unfairly singled out, making it seem as if we are the only one importing this type of product. The irony of the situation is that Blue Zone is probably the newest and smallest importer in the country.

Another issue which requires clarification is the insinuation that the company received special favours from the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority. Let me categorically state that at no point did Blue Zone seek or receive special favours in any of its business dealings with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority (NCRA). As is their duty, the NCRA made inquiries into one of the company’s imported shipments of rice. These inquiries were technical in nature and centred on the labelling of the product. I would like to stress that the ingredients or composition of the rice was never questioned. Blue Zone complied with all requests and the shipment was released for distribution. Also, the NCRA has stated that neither Blue Zone nor its representatives violated the law in any way.

It is incredulous and disappointing that this issue of rice importation has centred on a company that is likely the smallest importer in the country, especially when there are perhaps 150 larger local entities who have been importing rice of the same standard, and with the same labelling contents, for a much longer period of time. This places us in the unfortunate position to question whether this is in fact a search for truth or there are other motivations at play.

CHARLES TUFTON

Managing Director

Blue Zone Ltd