The Ministry of Agriculture have learned with deep regret and disappointment that there are rumours and newspaper reports alleging that rice donation by the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of The Gambia being currently distributed to farmers who encountered poor harvest in the 2017/18 rainy season and other Vulnerable groups across the country is expired or will be expired by June 2019.
The People’s Republic of China donated two thousand seven hundred and thirty four (2734) tons of Parboiled Rice to the Republic of The Gambia as an aid. The Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Agriculture therefore sought the support of the United Nations World Food Program to distribute part of the rice to targeted vulnerable households across the country.
Parboiled Rice sometimes called ‘easy cook’ is rice that is cooked or streamed before milling into grain. During this process, nutrients in the husk and brand is sunk into the endosperm of the grain to make it rich and qualitative.
On these bags were printed 2018/11 which refers to the production date of the rice not the expiry date contrary to the understanding of many people. This rice depending on the storage method can last much longer than six months to up to four years under good storage conditions.
The Ministry of Agriculture therefore wishes to inform the general public that the Chinese rice is healthy, safe and good for consumption by all means. The term best before date is a quality indicator which means the product will reach the peak of its freshness after that date. It does not mean the product cannot be consumed longer than the best before date.
It is also important to note that a multi sector institutional taskforce including Food Safety and Quality Agency was established at the level of the Ministry to manage this stock. The Chinese rice therefore took the normal route like other food stuff coming through the sea port of The Gambia. The Ministry therefore assures the beneficiaries and the general public that the date on the bag is not the expiry date but production date and they should continue to consume the rice to finish without any health risk.
The Ministry values the lives and welfare of the general public and the farming community in particular and will never in any circumstances give them expired rice that would negatively impact on their health status.
The Government of The Gambia once again through the Ministry of Agriculture wishes to express its profound appreciation and gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for coming to her aid in times of need and all Agencies that cooperated especially, The World Food Program.
Ministry of Agriculture Press Release