NFA: 330,000 bags of imported rice contaminated with beetles

Consumers may wonder why the rice or fish they eat has a funny taste.

The rice can be sprayed with insecticide and the "galunggong" (round scad) is lined with formalin.

The National Food Authority (NFA) said Thursday that it had to fumigate rice from Thailand and Vietnam because they were infected with weevils ("bukbok").

When asked if the fumigated rice was harmful to the consumer, said Yolly Navarro, deputy director of NFA in Bicol: "It is safe for human consumption, especially if it is washed before it is cooked."

The Ministry of Health, however, has warned the public about eating galunggong imported from China, amid reports that the fish was lined with formalin, a chemical used to preserve corpses.

Subic free port

In the Subic Bay Freeport, the NFA said that the unloading of rice from Thailand was delayed when 130,000 bags of beetles were contaminated.

The same happened with 200,000 bags that had to be unloaded in Tabaco City, the province of Albay.

The NFA said the contamination came about because heavy rainfall stopped the discharge in Subic of rice from Thailand and Vietnam.

Due to the delay, the heat inside the ship was conducive to the release of the weevils, said NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez Thursday.

A total of 340,000 bags of premium rice arrived on the 5th of June in the Port of Subic on MV Tay Son 2.

Another shipment of 160,000 bags arrived the following week to complete the 500,000 bags or 250,000 tons planned for unloading in the free port.


Estoperez said the NFA had begun to purge the pest infested rice, the costs of which would be borne by the supplier.

"It takes 12 days after fumigation before the rice can be unloaded," he said.

After disinfection, the rice will be subjected to laboratory tests to determine whether it should be returned to the supplier or stored in NFA warehouses before being distributed on the local market, he said.

12-day quarantine

In Tabaco, the NFA has postponed the unloading of 200,000 bags of rice from Thailand after the agency discovered the weevil in the grain three days ago.

Navarro said that the fumigation and quarantine period for the barrel that brought in the rice would end after 12 days.

The rice should be treated as quickly as possible to prevent the insects from multiplying before they are taken to the NFA warehouse, said the assistant region director.

Once the quarantine has ended, she said, the rice will be delivered to NFA warehouses in the region.

"We do not accept it as long as there are live insect pests, so it has to be delivered in good condition," she said.

The NFA office in Bicol expects a rice shipment from Thailand this month and in September.

Crowd control

Consumers who want to buy rice from the NFA must receive a number from the Grains Retailers Confederation (Grecon).

Josephine Bandola, president of Grecon in Albay, said the group gave consumers figures for crowd control. "We want to make the flow smooth and clear."

Rice is sold to the NFA for P27 per kilogram, for a maximum of 2 to 3 kilos.

"We are releasing and giving numbers to consumers so everyone can buy the cheapest rice," says Josie Villasera, 69, from Barangay Bonot in Legazpi City. She stood a few hours in line to buy NFA rice.

Jose Villanueva, 65, of Barangay Sabang said: "We would buy here because this is the cheapest rice compared to the one on the market, which is sold to P32 per kilo."

The public can buy the cheapest rice until the end of the delivery, according to Che Banton, Operations Manager at Grecon.

Previously, NFA administrator Jason Aquino said the last rice shipment was made using the public procurement procedure to government, in line with President Duterte's call to speed up imports to maintain food security.

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