MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will continues to import more rice this year as local production will still not be able to cover the national demand for the country’s main staple and as the government moves toward the liberalization of the industry.
In the latest report of the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), the Philippines is seen importing some 2.3 million metric tons (MT) of rice this year, 21 percent higher than last year’s 1.9 million MT.
The USDA hiked this year’s rice imports from the earlier projection of 1.8 million MT following reduced crop estimates and the lifting of the quantitative restriction on the commodity.
“The Philippines has been a more active buyer in recent months and pending legislation would likely keep imports at robust levels,“ USDA said.
In fact, application to bring in the commodity under the out-quota scheme has already reached 1.19 million MT as of January after 180 private traders have sought approval for the importation.
An updated list released by the National Food Authority showed that 180 firms have already applied for the out-quota importation of 1,185,764 MT of rice to be sourced from Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Myanmar and China.
It was in November 2018 when the interagency NFA Council allowed the unlimited importation of rice to further stabilize the market.
The out-quota allocation means traders can apply for any volume of imported rice they would want to bring into the country.
Of the initial volume, the imports will be discharged in Manila, Subic, Cebu, Zamboanga City, Davao, La Union, Tacloban and Cagayan de Oro.
Meanwhile, the USDA said high rice prices due to tight supplies, rising fuel prices, and market distribution inefficiencies will force the Philippine government to import more rice to stabilize prices and contain inflation.
The country’s additional imports also aim to strengthen buffer stocks ahead of the midterm elections scheduled in May.
Rice consumption has also been raised to 13.65 million MT from 13.25 million MT as rising food prices are forcing less affluent Filipinos to consume more rice and less meat and vegetables.
Production of milled-rice this year is seen decreasing by one percent to 12.15 million MT from the 12.23 million MT in 2018.
USDA said there may be slight reduction in area planted as rice areas in 2019 will be at 4.81 million hectares, one percent lower than the 4.84 million hectares last year.