Philippines eyes importing 800,000 tonnes of rice
The Philippines is looking to import as much as 800,000 tonnes of rice this year to boost thinning stockpiles and curb local price increases, a senior agriculture official said on Tuesday.
While bumper harvests elsewhere have built a global rice glut, prices in the Philippines have climbed around 4 percent in the last three months after one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall – Typhoon Haiyan – devastated key growing regions.
Local supplies have also been declining as the government clamps down on smugglers looking to avoid hefty taxes.
“The economic managers see this volume (800,000 tonnes) as crucial in stabilising (local) prices,” Agriculture Undersecretary Dante Delima told reporters.
He declined to give further details.
Rice traders and farm experts had raised the possibility that the Philippines might need to import as much as 2 million tonnes of the grain after missing its self-sufficiency target because of strong typhoons last year.
“As of now they are talking about buying 800,000 to 1 million tonnes of rice. Imports could be higher but it is not very clear as of now,” a Bangkok-based rice trader said.
Purchases by the Philippines, one of the world’s biggest buyers of the grain, could support falling rice prices in Asia, with both Vietnam and Thailand likely to bid aggressively for any new deal.
“The business will go mainly to Thailand and Vietnam. Thailand could get some business but they are talking about buying new crop rice for which Vietnam is cheaper,” the trader in Bangkok said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already said it expects Philippine rice imports to hit 1.4 million tonnes in 2014, which would be the highest in four years.
The National Food Authority (NFA), the Philippines’ state grains procurement agency, has yet to announce the country’s rice import plan this year, although rice exporters in Vietnam have already been talking about an upcoming tender.
The Philippines is gearing up to issue a tender to buy 800,000 tonnes of rice, Vietnam’s official Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted the Vietnam Food Association as saying on Monday.
Overall rice stocks in the Philippines fell to their lowest in four months in February and local prices have risen for seven straight weeks, even after the NFA bought 500,000 tonnes from Vietnam in a government-to-government deal in November.