Philippines beats China as world’s biggest rice importer

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Philippines beats China as worldâs biggest rice importer
The Philippines is set to reach its record-high rice imports at three million metric tons this year, beating China’s requirements after Manila opened the floodgates to rice importation.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has topped China in terms of buying rice in the global market, making it the world’s biggest rice importer for 2019.

The Philippines is set to reach its record-high rice imports at three million metric tons (MT) this year, beating China’s requirements after Manila opened the floodgates to rice importation.

This year, China is importing 2.5 million MT, lower from the earlier projection of 3.15 million MT amid abundant domestic supply.

In the latest report of the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), the Philippines has emerged as the top global importer of rice. Last month, the Philippines and China just nearly tied at 3.1 million MT.

Rice imports of the country have nearly quadrupled, from just 800,000 MT three years ago to three million MT anticipated for 2019, representing seven percent of total global rice imports.

In comparison, China’s share of global rice imports has almost reduced by half, to just five to six percent.

This is despite China’s population now at 1.4 billion compared with the 110 million population of the Philippines.

This year’s importation for the Philippines is 58 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, consequently, 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.

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

By 2020, the country is seen importing some 2.5 million MT of rice, exactly the same volume as China this year.

“Decreased imports from original projection reflect the preliminary investigation into import safeguards,” USDA said.

Other large importers next year are Nigeria at 1.8 million MT, Cote d’Ivoire at 1.5 million MT, Indonesia at 1.4 million MT, Senegal at 1.2 million MT, and Cuba at 600,000 MT.

Production of milled rice this year is the same with the 12 million MT from last year. Rice consumption has been raised to 14.2 million MT from 14.1 million MT in 2018.

USDA said there is a slight decrease in area planted, as rice areas in 2019 will be at 4.7 million hectares, 0.8 percent lower than the 4.74 million hectares last year.

Yield, on the other hand, is expected 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 has maintained its upward trend as it inched up 14 percent in September, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Latest data from the PSA showed that total rice inventory as of September stood at 1.84 million MT, 13.7 percent higher than last year’s volume stock of 1.16 million MT.

Based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT, the current inventory is sufficient for 58 days.




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