Rice is unloaded from a cargo hold in Dili. (Image/Antonio Daciparu)

DILI, March 18, 2020 (TATOLI) – The Interim Minister for Economic Affairs and Tourism, Trade and Industry (MCAE), Fidélis Manuel Leite Magalhães, said the National Logistics Center (CLN) recommended MCAE proceed with the purchase of several thousand tons of rice to deal with an eventual emergency situation in Timor-Leste.

TATOLI understands the recommendation involves a further purchase of 3,800 tons of rice, at a cost of $1.96m.

“The government immediately decided to reinforce the national stock in order to respond to an eventual emergency situation, meeting the needs of the people,” said Minister Fidélis said at the Government Palace in Dili yesterday.

The government official also said that, although the CLN’s request was approved, Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak still needs to be authorised to use the contingency fund to purchase the rice.

The Minister for Legislative Reform and Parliamentary Affairs insisted that the national stock is insufficient to respond to an eventual emergency situation, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, so he considers it necessary to proceed with alternative measures.

Minister Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhães. (Image/António Gonçalves)

“Despite the fact that the CLN acquired rice for the entire territory, our national production is not yet sufficient to meet the country’s needs. For this reason, the CLN made yet another request to the government to authorise the purchase of rice abroad,” Minister Fidélis said.

During a Council of Ministers meeting over the weekend, Prime Minister Taur formally requested a ‘state of emergency’ declaration for Timor-Leste.

The declaration would expand the powers available to the state, such as forcing businesses to close and closing the country’s borders, as well as enforcing mandatory quarantines. President Francisco Guterres is yet to approve the measure.

Timor remains free of the virus that’s affected 187,000 people worldwide, and caused almost 8,000 deaths.

Journalist: Natalino Costa

Editors: Robert Baird; Julia Chatarina

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