NGO accuses government of overimporting rice

By Jennifer Ng / Correspondent

Business Mirror, Oct. 14, 2008


THE government is accused of importing more than 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, over and above what it needs for 2008, but government officials countered that the additional volume was for buffer stocking.

In a forum on food security and agricultural development held in Quezon City on Tuesday, the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) charged that the 2.4 MMT of rice imported by the Philippine government for 2008 was “too much.”

“The case for overimportation has been made by the National Food Authority [NFA] itself, which admitted that its inventory as of end of August this year is 41.8 percent more than that of the same period last year,” said R1 lead convenor.

For 2007, the Philippines produced 16.24 million tons of palay. At a milling recovery rate of 65 percent, this translates to 10.56 million tons of rice. The Interagency Committee for Rice and Corn used the 2007 production figure as basis for planning the volume of rice that should be imported for 2008. For 2008, the Philippine government bought close to 2.4 million tons of rice mostly from Thailand and Vietnam.

Using the 118.67-per-kilogram-per-capita consumption cited by R1, the total rice volume needed by 90.4 million Filipinos for 2008 is estimated at 10.73 MMT. Including the 1.3 million tons of rice for other nonfood needs such as seeds, processing feeds and waste, the production shortfall  is only at 1.47 million tons.

At  an  average  cost  of  $700  per  MT cited  by  R1, the  additional  900,000   MT  imported  by the Philippines  amounted  to  $630 million, or almost P27 billion, at an exchange rate of P43 to $1.

The NFA, however, countered that the additional imports were for buffer stocking during the lean months of July, August and September this year.

“We are mandated to keep a buffer stock of 30 days as of end-July. We consume 33,000 MT  of rice per day, so that translates to around 990,000 MT,” said NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez at the sidelines of the forum.

The food agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA) is mandated to keep  buffer stocks to ensure that the Philippines will have enough supply of the staple should production decline to drastic levels due to a severe drought or storms.

Currently, Estoperez said the NFA has around 26 days of buffer stock, or around 940,000 MT of rice. “We are mandated to keep a buffer stock of 15 days after the lean months,” he said.
Estoperez said the NFA is looking at unloading its stocks through government outlets so that the proceeds can be used to purchase palay grown by local farmers at P14 to P17 per kilogram.

“We have to unload to [prop up] our own funds and increase the space for [palay] procurement,” he said.

The government is looking at buying 1 million tons of palay from local farmers this year as part of efforts to reduce its importation for 2009.


Albay Gov. Jose Salceda, for his part, said the Philippine government is targeting to purchase 10 percent of total palay produced locally so the NFA can make a dent in the local rice market. This translates to 1.73 million tons out of the projected 17.3-million ton production this year. 









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