PH seen to import 3.9M metric tons of rice in 2024 —USDA

The Philippines is projected to import more rice than initially estimated this year, further making the country the world’s top importer of the grain staple, according to the latest report by the United States’ Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In its Grain: World Markets and Trade report released Friday, the USDA projects the Philippines to import 3.9 million metric tons (MT) of rice this year, higher than its earlier estimate of 3.8 million MT in January.

The USDA cited “strong recent purchases from Vietnam” as the reason for adjusting its earlier projection.

The Philippines and Vietnam have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Rice Trade Cooperation during the state visit of President Ferdinand ”Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to Hanoi in late January.

Under the MOU, Vietnam agreed on a five-year trade commitment to supply white rice to the Philippine private sector, amounting to 1.5 million to 2 million metric tons (MT) per year at a competitive and affordable price.

The USDA earlier cited the Philippines’ importation of rice so far this year, with 56,090.63 MT as of January 11 coming mainly from Vietnam, which has continued to be among the top sources of rice imports.

The US Agriculture Department’s estimate was higher than the country’s actual rice importation of 3.22 million MT of rice from January 1 to December 22, 2023 based on Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) data.

Based on the USDA report, the Philippines will continue to overtake China, which is expected to import 2.3 million MT of rice this year, lower than its earlier estimate of 2.8 million MT, as “demand for foreign rice to weaken as domestic prices remain cheaper.”

Sought for comment, Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Arnel de Mesa said USDA’s adjusted rice importation estimates for the Philippines could be due to the challenges brought by El Niño, which is seen to last throughout the first half of the year.

“A bright prospect perhaps could be that the dams’ situation is not as low as the previous El Niño occurrences… NIA (National Irrigation Administration) assured that the dams have enough water until May for irrigation,” de Mesa said.

The DA official added that the higher rice production last year could also help in lessening dependence on importation despite the challenges.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) had said that the Philippines may be rice self-sufficient in by 2028.

Marcos on Saturday touted the country’s record-high rice production of 20.06 million MT in 2023.

Moreover, the DA said the Philippines has an adequate supply of rice that would last throughout the first half of 2024 despite the effects of El Niño.

“Interventions are in place to keep productivity level afloat and would not fall below the 20 million MT level,” de Mesa said.

However, the DA said that rice prices will stay elevated until September 2024 because of El Niño’s impact on global rice supply and prices.

Likewise, the Philippine Statistics Authority said a rice inflation of over 20% is expected until July as the rate of increase in the prices of the grain stood at a new 14-year high of 22.6% in January.  (GMA Integrated News)

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