Gov't to hand out excess rice to children

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 11 2010 01:29 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2010 09:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government said on Wednesday it would hand out 50,000 tons of the surplus grain to children.

The give-away will free up space in 480 government warehouses where President Benigno Aquino has said unsold rice is rotting, National Food Authority (NFA) spokesman Rex Estoperez told AFP.

"All our warehouses are full and we cannot sell rice to the market," Estoperez said.

"We will be using overstocked rice for the feeding programme. That is one strategy to de-clog the warehouses."

He said about one million sacks of rice weighing 50 kilograms each (50,000 tons) would be used in the mass feeding program.

The rice would be made into porridge for students at about 48,000 day care centers operated by the social welfare department, Estoperez said.

No specific timetable was given for the programme, although Estoperez said it would be carried out "as soon as possible".

Estoperez said more surplus rice was available and the NFA would also give that away if the social welfare department requested.

"This would depend on the requirements of the DSWD (social welfare department)," he said.

The Philippines is the world's biggest importer of rice but Aquino, who took office on June 30, has accused the administration of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, of importing more than was needed.

Aquino last month ordered a review of government rice import policies and appointed a new administrator for the NFA, stressing that some of the overstocked rice were rotting.

The new NFA chief, Angelito Banayo, subsequently said the country was "swimming in rice".

He said 2.4 tons of the grain bought by Arroyo's government last year were due for delivery in September, but there was no more space to store them.