FOOD STORAGE - Food Resources Manual

Open Storage

If open storage must be used (especially in emergencies):

  • Select a location on high ground that provides for drainage in rainy weather.
  • Place stacks on pallets, concrete slabs, gravel or sand, wherever possible. At a minimum, place plastic tarpaulin on the ground.
  • Use pallets and dunnage (loose material) to raise food at least 4inches off the ground or whatever has been laid over the ground.
  • Cover food with plastic sheeting, protecting tops and sides, and lash sheeting securely so that it will not blow off.
  • Dig drainage ditches around the stacks to prevent entry of rainwater.
  • Protect stacks from theft by using a fence or employing 24-hour security guards.
  • Insure that stack cards are used and kept up to date.
  • Take daily physical inventories, by a CARE manager or a local counterpart representative, and reconcile physical counts with inventory ledgers.

Height of Stacks

Do not stack 6-tin cartons or pails higher than ten layers, or bags of grain and processed food more than 25 layers. If food is stacked higher, stacks can become unstable especially as food is put on or taken off. In addition, added weight may cause damage to bags or containers of food at the bottom of the stack.

Stacking Food

Whenever possible, use pallets to keep food off the floor, and keep stacks at least one meter away from the eaves of the warehouse. This allows air to circulate and helps reduce the risk of infestations. Pallets should be clean, level, and free of projecting nails or splinters. When pallets are not available, such as at the beginning of an emergency operation, try to place food on wooden planks, woven mats or plastic sheeting. Keeping food off the floor is essential.

Guidelines for Stacking

  • Be sure there is easy access to food that has been stored the longest so that it will be dispatched first.
  • Store separate shipments of the same food in separate stacks. If this is not possible, place food remaining from a previous shipment on top of newly arrived food so that it can be dispatched first.
  • Set the first layer of the stack carefully on the pallets -- this layer is fundamental for maintaining uniform stacks.
  • Bond or interlace layers bags of grain or processed food to construct the stack.
  • Line up bags or containers of food with the edge of a pallet.
  • Place the same number of bags or containers on each level to make counting easy.
  • Leave at least one meter between each stack, and between the stacks and walls to facilitate inspections, inventory counts and fumigations. Leave at least one meter of circulation space between the top of the stack and the eaves.
  • Stack cartons or tins of oil in their upright position.
  • Limit stack heights to avoid crushing food on the bottom and excessive floor loading. Do not stack bags of grain or processed food higher than 25 layers, nor containers of oil higher than 10 layers.
  • Lift bags and containers and do not throw them.
  • Create separate stacks for food in original packages, damaged packages, repackaged food, food suspected and/or declared unfit, and sweepings.
  • Take physical inventories by counting from the floor. Climb to the top to observe that the stack is whole and no food has been taken from the center.

Correct Stacking Sequence -- Bottom layer as seen from above

Correct Stacking Sequence -- Top layer as seen from above

Bonded or interlaced stack

Stacking on pallets

Stacking food to eaves

Staircase Stack

Stack Cards

Each stack of food must have its own stack card. Stack cards record the receipt and dispatches of food on and off the stack and allow the warehouse manager or storekeeper to assess balances quickly without having to physically count.

Physical Counts

  1. Physical Inventory is the True Balance
  2. The warehouse manager or storekeeper must insure that food balances shown on stack cards and in warehouse inventory ledgers reconcile with actual amounts of food in the warehouse. The actual amount of food counted in the warehouse is the TRUE balance.If the physical counts, stack cards and ledgers do not reconcile and there is no justifiable reason for discrepancies, the person who has been delegated the duty of keeping the keys to the warehouse can be held liable for the value of any differences.

  3. Physical Inventory Schedules
  4. There is no set rule specifying when warehouse managers or storekeepers should take physical inventories and reconcile them with warehouse inventory ledgers. In warehouses where there is a lot of activity, inventories may be taken daily, weekly or bi-weekly. In other warehouses where there is not much activity, the warehouse manager or storekeeper may conduct physical counts monthly.

    However, for purposes of better control, country offices should require that warehouse managers or storekeepers, at a minimum, carry out physical inventories at the end of each month. This will facilitate reconciliations with warehouse inventory ledgers and preparation of monthly Commodity Status Reports.

    More frequent inventories detect more quickly any differences between actual stock levels and stack cards, and warehouse inventory ledger balances.

  5. Reconciling Physical Inventories, Stack Cards, and Warehouse Inventory Ledgers
  6. Normally, each stack is identified by location, shipment number and food type. The physical count is listed by shipment number and for each type of food. Counts should equal balances on stack cards and in warehouse inventory ledgers. Where there are differences between counts and ledgers, warehouse managers and storekeepers must prepare and submit a Loss and Adjustment Report to an authorized person. Only when the Report is approved can the warehouse manager or storekeeper record the difference as a loss (or excess)in the warehouse inventory ledgers.

    Counting a stack

    To take the physical count of one section of the above stack (figure 8): A. add up the number of bags on the two rows completely interlaced ( 24 bags);B. count the number of blocks (2) at the end of the stack; and add up total number of rows in the stack - top to bottom (8). The stack has (24x2x8) =384 bags.

    Document the physical count on a form, similar to the one below and enter the physical count information for each stack on each respective stack card.

    Note any differences between counts and stack card balances and briefly explain on the stack card. The Physical Inventory Form and Stack Cards will provide support documentation for physical inventory information entered in warehouse inventory ledgers.


    Document losses on the Loss and Adjustment Reports.

  7. Filing Physical Inventory Reports
  8. Warehouse managers and storekeepers must maintain a file which contains monthly physical inventory reports. They may be included in a shipment file or kept separately, but they must be available for inspection by field monitors or other persons carrying out warehouse inspections.

    Country offices should determine whether they also want to have warehouse managers and storekeepers submit reports to their Food and Logistics sections.

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