Philippines seen to remain world’s biggest rice importer

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is expected  to maintain its status as the world’s biggest rice importer even as it decides to import less rice this year.

This year, the country is seen importing some 2.5 million metric tons of rice, 13.8 percent lower than the previous year.

“Global trade is down with lower estimates for several countries including Egypt, Philippines, Guinea, and Kenya,” a report of the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services said.

The USDA already lowered this year’s projection from the earlier 2.7 million MT as the Philippines reduced its rice importation amid excessive supply coupled with improvements in the local production this year.

China, on the other hand,  remains the second rice importer in the world.  It is expected to buy 2.3 million MT of rice this year.

Last year, Philippines ended 2019 as the world’s biggest buyer of rice,  gobbling up a record high 2.9 million MT as the country opened up the industry to liberalization.

Rice imports of the country have nearly quadrupled in the last three years, representing about seven percent of total global rice imports.

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

Prices of palay have yet to improve nearly a year after the law took effect but the government continues to implement measures to address the drop including cash assistance and the implementation of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

Production of milled-rice is expected to increase to 12 million MT while rice consumption is projected to rise to 14.4 million MT from 14.1 million MT in 2019.

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

With the continued importation, the country’s rice inventory maintained its upward trend, rising by five percent in January, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Latest data from the PSA showed that total rice inventory stood at 2.68 million last month, up five percent.

Based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT, the current inventory is sufficient for 84 days.

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