Philippines to remain world’s top rice importer in 2024 – USDA

The Philippines is projected to remain the world’s top importer of rice this year based on a report made by the United States’ Department of Agriculture (USDA), as the rate of increase in  local prices of the commodity rose to a 14-year high in the past month.

A report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service showed that the country is currently estimated to import 3.8 million metric tons (MT) of rice this year, after the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) said the country took in 3.22 million MT of rice from January 1 to Dec. 22, 2023.

“The Philippines is projected to remain the number one global rice importer — taking a record 3.8 million tons — in 2024, followed by China, Indonesia, the European Union, Nigeria, and Iraq,” the report read.

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

Based on the USDA report, the Philippines — with a projected population of 112 million — will continue to overtake China which is expected to import 2.8 million MT of rice this year, catering to its 1.409 billion population.

The two countries will be followed by Indonesia which is projected to take in 2.5 million MT, the European Union with 2.4 million MT, Nigeria with 2.1 million MY, and Iraq with 2.0 million MT.

Meanwhile, the global rice trade is estimated at 5.22 million MT this year, down by 223,000 MT from 52.4 million MT in 2023 on the back of the export bans implemented by India between 2022 and 2023.

“On an annual basis, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, North Korea, Singapore, Tanzania, Togo, and Vietnam account for the bulk of the projected decline in global rice imports in 2024,” the report read.

The latest USDA report comes as rice prices in the country have continued to increase, with rice inflation — the rate at which costs increase — hit a 14-year high of 19.6% in December 2023, the fastest since March 2009’s 22.9%.

To recall, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. earlier this month maintained that the country needs to invest at least P1.2 trillion for the rice sector alone in the next three years, mainly for the irrigation of 1.2 million hectares of farmland.

“No major post-harvest facility was funded by the government in the last 40 years, puro maliliit at tingi tingi (mostly small and piecemeal), this is actually irrelevant and useless, sayang (a waste). So that’s why we need really to fund these projects but we cannot build small, we have to build bigger,” Laurel said in a briefing. (GMA Integrated News)