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Phl biggest rice importer until ‘21

Maria Romero

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The Philippines, an agricultural country, is forecast to remain as the world’s biggest rice importer until next year.

It will again displace China as lower Philippine rice production and tighter stocks remain a challenge.

The United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS) said the country’s rice imports could reach 2.5 million metric tons (MT) by year-end.

The estimate is lower by 13.8 percent from last year, but still the highest globally.

For 2021, the country’s rice imports are projected to increase by 32 percent to 3.3 million MT.

China, with a population of 1.4 billion, is expected to remain as the second biggest rice importer in the world with 2.3 million MT of imported rice this year. However, it will marginally decrease to 2.2 million MT by next year as production is seen to improve.

Driven by the Philippines’ global rice import performance, the USDA-FAS also reported that rice trade in 2021 is anticipated to improve almost six percent to over 45 million tons after contracting in 2019 and 2020.

The Philippines became the world’s biggest rice importer last year with a record 2.9 million MT after the government removed importation limits through the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

The country’s rice imports have nearly quadrupled in the last three years even as the Department of Agriculture (DA) devoted a bulk of its budget to improve local production.

For 2017, the country imported 890,000 MT of rice. This significantly increased to 1.9 million MT the following year.

Economic managers noted that rice prices have gone down to its lowest in six years following the RTL, but unhusked rice prices have plummeted as a consequence, affecting the livelihood of the local farmers.

Despite the “birthing pains” of the new rice regime, the DA said local production should remain steady this year even as some farmers are already planning to shift to planting other crops.

The DA is currently pushing for the full implementation of its new billion-peso “Plant, Plant, Plant” program to help the sector recover from the slump.

The department’s regular program amounting to P17 billion would only generate an output of 12.6 million MT — that’s 83 percent of the country’s requirement.

But the newly crafted Rice Resiliency Program would help produce an additional 867,184 MT, bringing the country’s rice-sufficiency level to 93 percent. The balance of seven percent or 978,392 MT of the national requirement will be imported.

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