State-run National Food Authority (NFA) on Monday assured the public it releases only the best-quality rice for calamity victims, and is not scraping the bottom of the barrel as rice stocks hit critical levels.
“The NFA is an advocate of food safety as well as good warehouse-keeping practices. It will never issue spoiled rice to calamity victims because I have this standing instruction [to]all our field offices to issue only the best-quality rice for relief operations,” NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino said in a statement.
Aquino made the clarification following reports that some evacuees from Marawi City experienced stomach pains after eating what they claimed was spoiled rice included in relief goods distributed at evacuation centers in Iligan City.
Aquino said he immediately instructed the NFA regional director in Northern Mindanao to conduct an initial investigation, and formed a team from the agency’s Manila office to go to Lanao del Norte to look into the matter.
The team is composed of key personnel from the NFA’s Technical Research and Services Department, Security Services and Investigation Department and Internal Audit Services Department.
The NFA team was instructed to find out if NFA rice caused health problems among the alleged victims, or whether they ingested other food or water that may have caused the illness, Aquino said.
He said there was enough rice in the areas affected by the Marawi conflict, with NFA stocks at a total 56,836 bags in Lanao del Norte and 226,400 bags in the whole of Northern Mindanao.
The NFA however has less than two days worth of rice left in its inventory based on the national consumption of 32,000 metric tons per day.
The agency is limiting the distribution of rice to calamity-hit areas, with the next batch of fresh supplies to be tendered later this month not expected to arrive until August and September.
So far, only the NFA warehouses in Western Visayas have disposable rice supplies for emergency restocking, with other regional offices stretching inventory until the new batch of rice from abroad arrives.