Philippines urges trading partners to honor rice deals
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government is calling on neighboring countries to honor their commitment to export rice to the Philippines after suppliers started cutting down on their shipments to other nations.

During the Laging Handa virtual briefing yesterday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said there are still 1.3 million metric tons of rice that the private sector has ordered.

“This is what we are monitoring from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. We hope they respect and observe the contracts that have  already been issued import clearances,” Dar said.

“If these arrive, more or less, we have enough to fill (what we need) during the lean months (of July to September),” he said.

Last week, the Vietnamese government announced it would temporarily stop issuing clearance for rice shipments to ensure food security as the coronavirus disease intensifies.

Vietnam is the country’s biggest supplier of rice, accounting for about 85 percent of the total imports last year.

Data from the government showed that only 500,000 MT of the 1.8 million MT has arrived in the country to date.

Dar said the 300,000 MT earlier approved importation via the government-to-government scheme is just a contingency measure.

“Applications are still open for SPSIC (sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance) under the Rice Tariffication Law,” he said.

To further augment supply, a portion of the P31-billion supplemental budget will be used to support the 1.3 million hectares of land in the country which do not have government interventions in terms of inputs.

“This expanded rice production program will now cover the rest of 1.3 million hectares to add six percent in our self-sufficiency level, from 87 percent to 93 percent,” Dar said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture will set up more Kadiwa outlets to serve consumers in Metro Manila more affordable food.

“We will open more this week to benefit more urban families, and at the same time provide our Luzon farmers and fishers direct market and thus earn for their respective products,” Dar said.

The Kadiwa outlets sell fresh vegetables and other agri-fishery products that are at least 20 percent cheaper than those sold at public markets.

To date, at least four LGUs (Las Piñas, Makati, Pasig, and Pateros) and two executive villages (Valle Verde and Don Jose Heights subdivisions) have expressed interest to participate in the DA Kadiwa initiative.

Dar is hopeful that more local chief executives in Metro Manila will consider establishing Kadiwa stores in their respective areas.

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