NFA: 330,000 bags of imported rice infested with weevils
Consumers may be wondering why the rice or fish they are eating have a funny taste.
The rice may have been sprayed with insecticide and the “galunggong” (round scad) laced with formalin.
The National Food Authority (NFA) on Thursday said it had to fumigate rice from Thailand and Vietnam because these were infested with weevils (“bukbok”).
Asked if the fumigated rice was harmful to consumers, Yolly Navarro, assistant director of NFA in Bicol, said: “It is safe for human consumption, especially if it is washed before cooking.”
The Department of Health, however, has cautioned the public against eating galunggong imported from China amid reports that the fish was laced with formalin, a chemical used to preserve corpses.
Subic free port
At the Subic Bay Freeport, the NFA said the unloading of rice from Thailand was delayed when 130,000 sacks turned out to be infested with weevils.
The same thing happened to 200,000 bags set to be unloaded in Tabaco City, Albay province.
The NFA said the infestation came about because heavy rains stopped the unloading in Subic of rice from Thailand and Vietnam.
Due to the delay, the heat inside the ship became conducive to the hatching of the weevil eggs, NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said on Thursday.
A total of 340,000 bags of premium rice arrived at the Port of Subic on MV Tay Son 2 on June 5.
Another shipment consisting of 160,000 bags arrived the following week to complete the 500,000 bags or 250,000 metric tons scheduled for unloading at the free port.
Estoperez said the NFA had started fumigating the pest-infested rice, the cost of which would be shouldered by the supplier.
“It will take 12 days after fumigation before the rice can be offloaded,” he said.
After the fumigation, the rice will be subjected to laboratory tests to determine whether it should be returned to the supplier or stored in NFA warehouses before distribution in the local market, he said.
In Tabaco, the NFA has postponed the unloading of 200,000 bags of rice from Thailand after the agency detected weevil in the grain three days ago.
Navarro said the fumigation and quarantine period for the vessel that brought the rice in would end after 12 days.
The rice should be treated as soon as possible to prevent the insects from multiplying before being brought to the NFA warehouse, said the assistant regional director.
Once the quarantine is over, she said, the rice will be delivered to NFA warehouses in the region.
“We will not accept it as long as there is live insect infestation. So it should be delivered in good condition,” she said.
The NFA office in Bicol expects another rice shipment from Thailand this month and in September.
Consumers who want to buy rice from the NFA are required to get a number from the Grains Retailers Confederation (Grecon).
Josephine Bandola, president of Grecon in Albay, said the group was giving numbers to consumers for crowd control. “We would like to make the flow smooth and orderly.”
Rice is being sold at the NFA for P27 per kilogram, for a maximum of 2 to 3 kilos.
“We are in favor of releasing and giving of numbers to consumers so that everybody can buy the cheapest rice,” said Josie Villasera, 69, from Barangay Bonot in Legazpi City. She queued for several hours to buy NFA rice.
Jose Villanueva, 65, of Barangay Sabang said: “We would buy here because this is the cheapest rice compared to those in the market, which is sold at P32 per kilo.”
The public can buy the cheapest rice until supply lasts, said Che Banton, Grecon operations manager.
Earlier, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said the latest rice shipment was made using the government-to-government procurement scheme in line with President Duterte’s call to speed up importation to maintain food security.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.