Philippines to remain as largest rice importer next year
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will maintain its status of being the world’s biggest rice importer by 2020, according to the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS).

The country is seen importing some 2.7 million metric tons of rice next year, higher than the 2.4 million MT imports of China.

“There is an expected continuation of import trends,” USDA said.

While the Philippines will tone down its rice importation amid excessive supply coupled with improvements in the local production next year, this will still remain above the five-year average.

The country is officially ending 2019 as the world’s biggest rice importer for the year, reaching a record 3.2 million MT as the country opened up the industry to liberalization.

“Global trade is nearly unchanged with reduced imports for China partially offsetting higher imports for Ghana and the Philippines,” USDA said.

Rice imports of the country had nearly quadrupled from just 800,000 MT three years ago to 3.2 million MT this year, representing over seven percent of total global rice imports.

In comparison, China’s share of global rice imports almost declined by half even as China’s population has reached 1.4 billion compared with the 110 million population of the Philippines.

This year’s importation for the Philippines is 68 percent higher than the 1.9 million MT imports in 2018.

In March 2019, the Philippines implemented the Rice Tariffication Act which led to a considerable increase in imports and a decline in domestic prices.

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. While this helped lower inflation, USDA said the adjustment to rice liberalization remains a challenge for the Philippines.

Production of milled rice went up to 12 million MT. Rice consumption, on the other hand, is seen to increase to 14.4 million MT from 14.1 million MT in 2018.

USDA said there is a slight decrease in area planted as rice areas reach 4.7 million hectares this year or 0.8 percent lower.

Yield, on the other hand, is expected to improve to 4.05 MT per hectare per harvest from 3.93 MT.

The country’s rice inventory maintained  its upward trend, surging 43 percent to 2.28 million MT in October.

Based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT, the current inventory is sufficient for 71 days.

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