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PH to import extra 500,000 tons of rice to boost stocks

The Philippines will import an extra 500,000 tons of rice to increase its thin stockpile after a typhoon damaged crops last week.

The fresh demand announced yesterday by the Philippines’ food security chief, Francis Pangilinan, brings the country’s total rice purchases for this year’s needs to nearly 2 million tons, the highest in four years, making the country one of the world’s biggest rice buyers.

RICE SUPPLY – Stevedores unload 120 cavans of National Food Authority imported rice from Vietnam at the Poro Point pier in San Fernando City, La Union. The shipment is the additional allocation for the city intended for the lean months. The Philippines will import an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice, including 200,000, to cover damage caused by Typhoon Glenda this month. (Erwin Beleo)

RICE SUPPLY – Stevedores unload 120 cavans of National Food Authority imported rice from Vietnam at the Poro Point pier in San Fernando City, La Union. The shipment is the additional allocation for the city intended for the lean months. The Philippines will import an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice, including 200,000, to cover damage caused by Typhoon Glenda this month. (Erwin Beleo)

“We have agreed that we will import an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice,” Pangilinan told local radio. “There will be a tender and (the shipment) is expected to come in by end of August, first week of September.”

Pangilinan met with the country’s economic managers on Tuesday to seek approval for the fresh rice imports.

Typhoon “Glenda,” the strongest storm to hit the Philippines since super-typhoon “Yolanda” in November, killed 97 people and damaged $172 million worth crops and infrastructure.

“We lost some 50,000 metric tons from the typhoon and local harvest is not expected to start until end of September,” Pangilinan said.

INCREASE NFA STOCKS

Inventories of rice stocks by the National Food Authority (NFA) and those held by the private sector and households were currently good for 82 or 83 days of national consumption, below a requirement for a 90-day buffer stock, he said.

Pangilinan said NFA would release extra rice stocks from its warehouses to stabilize prices and help feed victims of the typhoon. Of the additional imports, 400,000 tons would be used to refill the warehouses.

Pangilinan also told The Wall Street Journal yesterday that daily releases from NFA warehouses have been increased to 10,000 tons from 6,000 tons.

“We need to augment our stocks,” he said. “If we don’t intervene, local rice prices will remain high or even rise further.”

The latest purchase will add to a series of deals from last November to import a total of 1.5 million tons of rice from Vietnam, the country’s traditional supplier.

FIRE ALCALA

And because the government failed to fulfill its rice-sufficiency promise for 2014, consumer group Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC) asked President Aquino to remove Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala from office for his ineptness.

Perfecto Tagalog, secretary-general of the CFC claimed that Alcala put Aquino in an embarrassing position after the president in his last SONA promised that the country will be rice-sufficient in 2014.

Instead of a bountiful harvest, the NFA will now more than double the country’s rice export, he added.

Tagalog said Alcala has not proven anything to merit his stay in his current post as his tenure has been marked by the soaring prices of rice and other prime agricultural commodities in the market.

The Philippines recently shifted away from setting a target date for a plan to be completely self-sufficient in the production of rice likely keeping its doors open to imports beyond the current goal of 2016.

The United States’ Department of Agriculture has forecast that the Philippines may need to import as much as 2 million tons of rice this year and 1.8 million tons in 2015.