More rice imports coming

By Othel V. Campos

Manila Standard Today

March 27, 2008


http://www.manilast andardtoday. com/?page= politics1_ mar27_2008

Farmers warned that the country was facing a serious rice supply crisis even as the Philippine government yesterday signed a deal to import additional rice from Vietnam to boost reserves.


The deal with Vietnam assures Manila of at least 1.5 million tons of rice annually starting this year.


"That should bring our rice importation to 2.7 million tons," Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said.


The deal is good for three years and renewable for another three years.


Earlier, the government held three separate biddings for rice supply through the National Food Authority.


The state-owned grains trading company has so far signed contracts for 1.2 million tons of rice, mostly from Vietnam and Thailand, and an additional 100,000 tons (110,000 US tons) under a loan program from the US Department of Agriculture.


But farmers and politicians said the importations were not enough to meet demand.

The National Rice Farmers Council said the shortage could cause the price of rice—the nation's staple food—to soar to P40 ($1) per kilogram from the current average of around 25 pesos ($0.60) per kilogram.


"The traders will definitely take advantage of the limited supply, while the government will be dependent on the imported rice for its buffer stock,'' said Jimmy Tadeo, the group's chairman.


The Philippines consumes about 11.9 million metric tons (13.12 million US tons) of rice annually, most of which is grown domestically. But dwindling domestic production and corruption in the rice supply chain have created a recurrent shortfall of about 10 percent.


The government has to purchase about 2 million metric tons (2.20 million US tons) from the international market every year, making the Philippines the world's biggest rice importer.


The Agriculture Department says rising demand in the Middle East and Africa has increased the price of rice in Vietnam and Thailand—the world's top exporters—to up to $500 per metric ton, a 25-percent jump in just the last month.


Yap said the government's rice reserve would last 57 days, and denied there was any shortage, "even if prices are high.'' A number of factors contributed to rising costs, he said, including higher fertilizer and oil prices as well as climate change.


The government plans to increase local production by planting an additional 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of rice during the rainy season in the country's 10 poorest provinces and another 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) in other provinces, he said.


President Arroyo has vowed to crack down on rice hoarders, people who buy rice at a subsidized price from the NFA and sell it at a higher price in markets. Though no charges have yet been filed, Yap was staking out warehouses and following trucks to see where the rice was going, she said.


With AP








Next R1 News | Previous R1 News | Back to R1 in the News Page



Rice Watch and Action Network

© 2007 All Rights Reserved