The Philippines is now seen sourcing 3.1 million MT as more imports will continue to flood the domestic market following policy changes removing quantitative restrictions on the basic commodity.
Michael Varcas/File
Record high rice imports seen this year
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines appears to be on an unlimited importing spree as it is set to reach its record-high rice imports at 3.1 million metric tons this year, already nearing China’s requirements, amid a new regime for Filipinos’ main staple.

The Philippines is now seen sourcing 3.1 million MT as more imports will continue to flood the domestic market following policy changes removing quantitative restrictions on the basic commodity.

In the latest report of the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), this year’s importation is 63 percent higher than the 1.9 million MT imports in 2018.

The latest projection is also higher than the earlier three million MT forecast for the Philippines.

“There are large purchases from lower-priced Southeast Asian suppliers,” USDA said.

With the latest forecast, the Philippines is still setting record levels in terms of buying rice in the world market as it remains the second-largest global importer this year, next to China with an estimated 3.4 million MT of rice imports.

The rice import liberalization law took effect last March, which replaced rice import quantitative restrictions with tariffs and reverted the minimum access volume to its 2012 levels.

Rice is a staple food in the country and the law is intended, in part, to spur imports in order to quell domestic unrest caused by inflation.

Higher imports are also expected despite a significant increase in local output as domestic consumption remains in an upward trend.

Production of milled rice this year is seen inching up by two percent to 12.2 million MT from the 12 million MT in 2018.

Further, rice consumption has been raised to 14.6 million MT from 14.1 million MT last year as rising food prices are forcing less affluent Filipinos to consume more rice and less meat and vegetables.

USDA said there is an improvement in area planted as rice areas in 2019 will be at 4.85 million hectares, 2.3 percent higher than the 4.74 million hectares last year.

Yield is also expected to improve to 3.99 metric tons per hectare per harvest from the earlier 3.96 MT.

With the continued importation, the country’s rice inventory has maintained its upward trend as it inched up 10 percent in June, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Latest data from the PSA showed that total rice inventory as of June stood at 2.59 million MT, 10 percent higher than last year’s volume stock of 2.36 million MT.

Based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT, the current inventory is sufficient for 81 days.

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