NGO calls for rice watchBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NON-GOVERNMENT organization Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) has urged the National Food Authority (NFA) to test imported rice stored in warehouses nationwide to make sure that old, unfit stocks are disposed of.
R1 said in a statement that it had participated in the investigation of imported rice currently stored in NFA warehouses and found grains from the United States that were brought into the country in April 2008 and slowly getting spoiled in storage houses in Antipolo City and Balagtas, Bulacan.
Other stocks found in warehouses in Metro Manila and Central Luzon are as old as 16 months, R1 said.
R1 said the rice brought into the country 16 months ago has been fumigated once, but sprayed with pesticide 16 times, and fogged 31 times to prevent rotting.
“Milled rice is supposed to be stored for six months at most. This old rice has not been tested for its safe level of chemical residues or traces due to fumigation and fogging, yet these are already being subjected to public auction for distribution to consumers. We strongly urge the NFA and Department of Agriculture to decisively get their act together with the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration,” R1 lead convenor Jessica Reyes Cantos said.
The groups said the government had not done enough to address the problem, a year after President Benigno Aquino III exposed corruption in the food agency in his State of the Nation Address in 2010.
R1 said that based on estimates during the investigation, the imported rice rotting in these warehouses has reached 11 million bags or 550,000 metric tons.
The grains agency lost approximately P16.5 billion due to landed cost alone, excluding the cost incurred by the government for transportation and warehousing.
Jaime Tadeo of the National Rice Farmers Council said that such costs could have been used to support local farmers, if only the NFA chose to buy their produce instead of importing from other countries.
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