PH seen curbing rice imports this year

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After being the world’s top rice importer for two consecutive years, the Philippines is projected to fall to the number two spot this year as the government concentrates on beefing up local stocks to address the current instability of the global rice market.

From an import volume of 2.9 million metric tons (MT) in 2019 and an estimated 2.3 million MT in 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA-FAS) projected a reduction moving into 2021.

High export prices for Thailand and Vietnam—two of the Philippines’ major rice suppliers—have lessened the country’s purchases as nations all over the world are trying to ensure food security by keeping local stocks at bay.

Data collated by the USDA-FAS showed that global rice prices have remained elevated over the past month. In Vietnam and Thailand, prices have gone up to $514 and $527 a ton, respectively, from about $400 a ton late last year.

This is also the reason why the Department of Agriculture (DA) is doubling efforts to improve local palay production to a high of 20.43 million metric tons this year and increase the country’s self-sufficiency rate for rice to 95 percent.

“The Philippines is expected to continue being a large rice importer. Still, improved production, government policies that constrain trade and record-high prices from traditional suppliers are key factors limiting imports this year,” the USDA-FAS said. “As a result, the Philippines is forecast to fall to the number two spot in 2021 as the largest global rice importer after the European Union.”

With the government pouring billions of pesos to improve local palay production, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan earlier said that the country might need only 1.69 million MT of imported rice this year to meet Filipinos’ rice requirements.

The Department of Agriculture is also regulating rice trade even after the country has opened its doors to unimpeded importation.

The agency has slowed down the distribution of import clearances and has recently shortened the length of time between the issuance of these permits and the arrival of the shipments to protect Filipino farmers.


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