3 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Rice prioritised for hospitals in South Island

7:43 pm on 3 April 2020

A food supply company in the South Island is rationing rice to prioritise hospitals as it says there is pressure on supply.

Raw white rice and wooden spoon in weave basket on sack background.

Photo: 123rf.com

Trents Wholesalers, a subsidiary of Foodstuffs that supplies bulk food to convenience stores, hospitals and rest homes has removed rice from its shelves.

A spokesperson for Foodstuffs said it is not out of stock, but has removed rice from its physical stores to prioritise supplying essential services.

"Because there is some pressure on rice supply, we have chosen to prioritise the volumes we have on hand for these vital customers.

"We have simply removed the product from shelf at our Trents Cash and Carry sites to ensure we maintain supply to our customers who are delivering essential services such as rest homes and hospitals."

New Zealand Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said there was enough rice in the country for the next few months if supply was managed responsibly.

"Some people have been going out and buying anywhere between three months to a years' worth of supply for their families... that sort of panic buying has died down but we are at a stage where we're working very hard to responsibly managed the supply we have in New Zealand"

She said the drought had impacted on rice production in Australia, but there were other places it could be sourced like Vietnam.

However, the world's third-largest rice exporter Vietnam has still not lifted a ban on new rice export contracts after freezing its trading activity last Saturday.

Ms Rich acknowledged that countries like Vietnam have banned exports, but was still confident there was still a strong supply into New Zealand.

"So certainly right now, and for the next few months, we have no concerns if firms locally are managing it very responsibly but they are asking retailers to do the same."

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