Re-fumigated imported rice OK’d to be unloaded at port
By Rhaydz B. Barcia LEGAZPI CITY --- Cooked re-fumigated rice, anyone? After a week of fumigation, the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Bicol finally gave the greenlight to unload the 177,000 bags of rice imported from Thailand. The imported rice arrived in Manila seaport on June 3, from which the shipment or allocation for Bicol arrived at Tabaco City Port on August 17, this year. Henry H. Tristeza, ACPE, Asean Engineer and concurrent regional director of National Food Authority in Bicol said they’re allowing to unload the 177,000 bags of NFA rice found with weevil (bukbok) infestation from MV Blue Emperor 1. The shipment is now cleared to be free from weevil after the re-fumigation conducted by the Bureau of Plant Industry. The NFA officials in Bicol led by Tristeza even took a palatability test by eating the cooked milled rice after undergoing fumigation and sensory evaluation to prove that they were now fit for human consumption. Tristeza and members of the press took part in eating the re-fumigated rice at NFA regional office in Legapzi City on Friday, Aug. 31, to show to the public that the imported rice reported with weevil infestation, after fumigation, is fit for human consumption. “Today is the last day after the quarantine period and the shipment were supposed to be downloaded but due to weather condition the imported rice will temporarily remain at MV Blue Emperor 1 vessel. There are two vessels in Tabaco City Port loaded with NFA rice from Thailand,” he said. The weevil insects were uncovered in August 20 after NFA officials checked the imported rice at Tabaco port. Tristeza said that in his 40 years of service at the National Food Authority, this is the first time that he encountered weevil infestation on imported rice due to long storage and hot humidity condition. He said infestation usually thrives under a hot humidity condition. The NFA in Bicol led by Tristeza uncovered the weevil infestation in the bags of imported rice allocated for Bicol as it were in other NFA warehouses throughout the country. The shipment was put on hold until after the treatment or re-fumigation was completed. Danilo L. Doblon, Plant Quarantine Service regional manager, said in a letter addressed to NFA Regional Director Tristeza and NFA Albay Provincial Director Alan Sabaybay that the latest inspection and sampling of re-fumigated imported rice on board M/V Emperor 1 at port of Tabaco City show that the rice shipment is now free form live insects or weevil. “Pleased be informed that based [on] inspection and examination of samples randomly collected in all the three holds of the vessel, after the conduct of re-fumigation, no live insects had been observed, hence, discharging of the same is hereby recommended,” Doblon said in his letter. Upon recommendation for the discharge of the imported rice, the NFA officials in Bicol conducted the palatability test with the media here. “Rice with weevil is very safe to be eaten just like a vegetable with worm which means that the crop is free from chemical contamination. But just the same, we conducted the fumigation to remove the weevil,” Tristeza said. He said that as soon as the weather permits, unloading of the shipment at the port will follow. He explained that cost for the treatment of the rice shipment was shouldered by the supplier from Thailand as they were deemed still under the responsibility of the supplier unless they have been finally unloaded. The bags of imported re-fumigated rice have been allocated for distribution in the six provinces of Bicol, such as Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate.