Any product recall in this industry is much more complex than any other industry and it is simply because it is very hard to trace the origin of the product and the diversity one finds in Agri products. Any issues with Agri products too are not easy to detect as they do not follow the standard metrological and quality aspects common in other products. Despite that, the number of Agri product recalls is rising every year, reflecting on the conscious effort by several countries. Below is a list of the major Agri product recalls in the past few decades
1. Shrimp Rejections – USA (2016 – Present)
Shrimps has a big market in the US, with imports over 1.5bn pounds. Asia is the primary exporter of shrimps with India leading the list. Indian shrimps not only lead the exports but also in the list of rejections each year. Dozens of consignments are rejected over mainly two grounds – large unrecognized antibiotic content, drug residues and the presence of Salmonella. Other Asian counterparts are not far behind in the rejection list as nearly 5% of seafood rejections in the US are associated with shrimps alone!
The rejections reached a record high in 2015 with 404 consignments and the last 5 years has seen more than 800 consignments of shrimp rejected. The value of these consignments is bound to be of the order of several hundred million dollars. The rejections are not isolated to the US alone as EU, Japan and Canada too have adopted more stringent screening. Destroying the goods is the usual fate of most consignments as they cannot be transported elsewhere. The primary reason that can be attributed are poor exports compliances as well as issues related to cultivation and export practices. It also indicated stricter scrutiny on product safety, especially in the case of food products, in the global markets.
2. Argentinian Wheat Recall – South Korea, 2016
72,000 tonnes may seem like a huge number, but that is quite small in today’s wheat transactions over the world. However, that is a significant quantity to be rejected, especially by a smaller nation such as South Korea. Asia has been especially conscious of GM crops over the last couple of decades and when strains of GM samples were found in large portions of the consignments that year, South Korea decided to reject and return all the wheat that landed at its shores and yet to reach its market. However, no subsequent ban has been issued immediately though it may be the eventual outcome if such incidents continue.
What makes this incident crucial is the fact that, the consignments rejected will most probably find a new home, and at close quarters at that. South East Asia is still a thriving market for cheaper wheat, contaminated or not. Argentina also exports to many African countries who do not engage in much screening on GMO crops. This though will result in increased scrutiny in other countries in Europe and East Asia, causing loss to thousands of exporters and farmers, majority of whom are not insured against such issues.
3. Cashew Rejections – Vietnam, 2019
Nigeria, a major oil exporter, in its attempts to diversify has focussed on Agri-products to as an export replacement. Cashews play a significant part in this transformation, but also has had to bear the brunt of a huge export rejection. The stand out however, is the reason given- high price of the commodity, which was stated after the shipments reached the shores of Vietnam. Merchants in Vietnam, who obtain loans from banks were rejected loans on the ground that the purchase was not profitable as raw materials turned out to be costlier than the end products. The buyers ended up rejecting the shipments.
In what has been a blame game, the producers blame the merchants and buyers of unfair rejection while the buyers blame the producers in Nigeria of fixing the prices much higher than their actual worth. The end though, is an unfair burden on the farmers as it's them who ultimately bear the brunt of this rejection, while another 67,000 tonnes of cashew remain in the warehouses. However, issues regarding quality and unfair pricing have also cropped up in the Nigerian markets, after this issue, prompting price regulations.