Worse crisis? DA says Philippines has enough rice

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Worse crisis? DA says Philippines has enough rice
A worker arranges sacks of rice at a local rice store in Quezon City on October 4, 2023.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines —  There will be enough supply of rice amid the warning of farmers’ group Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) that the crisis experienced in 2023 could be worse in 2024, Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Arnel de Mesa has assured the public.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects at least 20 million metric tons of palay harvest before the end of 2023, De Mesa said at a forum over the weekend.

“We’re expecting 85 to 90 days of national stock inventory by the end of December which is enough until the next harvest season comes March or April (2024) but we still have imports as our importation is already liberalized. Based on historical data, additional imports (come) during the first quarter,” De Mesa added.

In an earlier interview with The STAR, FFF national chairman Raul Montemayor warned that the rice crisis could be worse in 2024 amid the continued spike in the retail price of the grains despite the harvest season.

De Mesa said that the total imported rice reached 3.03 million metric tons as of end November compared to the same period last year of 3.5 million metric tons.

“Last year, we had 3.8 (million metric tons of imported rice). We’re expecting 3.3 million metric tons, not including the Indian rice,” De Mesa said, referring to the 295,000 metric tons of imported rice from India.

At the same time, De Mesa admitted that he cannot categorically say if the upward trend in the retail price of the grains will persist.

“It is difficult for us to say as the main mandate of the DA is production. So, in terms of production and the expected imported rice, we can say we have a stable supply of rice,” he added.

President Marcos was forced to enforce Executive Order 39 on Sept. 5 imposing a price cap of P43 and P45 per kilo on regular and well-milled rice amid the high retail price of the staple.

Marcos lifted the price ceiling on Oct. 4, less than a month after the imposition of EO 39 as the peak harvest started.

Montemayor added that if high international prices persist in 2024, the country expects less imports than in 2023.

According to Montemayor, the country could experience tightness in supply again around February and March before the dry season harvest and in July to September next year.

Montemayor has said that the Philippine Statistics Authority failed to address the five million metric tons difference in palay production last year.

He said that despite the peak palay harvest season starting October, there was an upward trend in the retail price of rice.

According to Montemayor, the previous trend was that the retail price of rice goes down during the palay harvest but this did not happen.

Montemayor said that the expected harvest during the dry season cropping next year would be further affected by the El Niño phenomenon.

Based on monitoring of the DA in Metro Manila markets, the retail price of local regular milled rice already reached as high as P54 per kilo; higher than the local well-milled rice of P55 per kilo; local premium rice, P60 per kilo and local special rice, P68 per kilo.

Imported well-milled rice was no longer available as imported premium rice reached as high as P69 per kilo and imported special rice, P65 per kilo.

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