By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Philippines’ rice inventory surged by 43 percent in October, with higher stocks at both households and commercial warehouses.
A data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that as of October 1, total rice stocks of the country stood at 2.27 million metric tons (MT).
This was higher by 43.4 percent than the previous year’s record of 1.58 million MT and by 23.7 percent than the preceding month’s inventory level of 1.84 million MT.
Rice stocks in all sectors grew compared with their levels in the previous year, PSA said.
To be specific, Stocks in the households and commercial warehouses increased by 22.5 percent and 38.2 percent, respectively.
Continuous upsurge was also recorded in National Food Authority (NFA) depositories at 207.3 percent.
Of this month’s rice stocks inventory, 46.2 percent were in the households, 36.5 percent were in commercial warehouses, and 17.3 percent in NFA depositories.
The latest PSA report came as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reiterated its earlier forecast that the Philippines may end up becoming the world’s largest rice importer this year, beating China, the world’s most populous country with a population of around 1.4 billion.
In the latest report, it looked like the Philippines, home to 105 million people, is on track to import 3 million metric tons (MT) this year, while China is expected to import only 2.5 million MT.
This, as the world’s second largest economy continuous to boost its local rice production.
“The Philippines rice imports have nearly quadrupled, from 800,000 metric tons in 2016 to 3.1 million anticipated for 2019, representing 7 percent of total global rice imports. In comparison, China’s share of global rice imports has almost reduced by half, to just over 7 percent,” USDA said in a previous report.
“While China rice imports continue to shrink, Philippine purchases provide much appreciated reprieve from nearby exporters in Southeast Asia,” it added.
In that report, USDA pointed out that the Rice Tariffication Act, passed in March, indeed “led to a considerable increase in imports and, consequently, decline in domestic prices”.
“While this helped lower inflation, the Philippines adjustment to rice liberalization remains a challenge,” the state-run agency said.
Right now, the Philippine government wants to control the importation of rice by restricting the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-IC) to traders.
In order to import rice, Rice Tariffication Act or RA 11203 only requires local traders to obtain an SPS-IC from the Department of Agriculture (DA). An SPS certifies that rice imports that will enter the country are free from pests and diseases.
“We will try to lessen the importation and limit it to 1 million metric tons because that’s what we need. We will help the rice farmers,” Senator Cynthia Villar, the author of RA 11203, said earlier.
While Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) welcomed this, it noted that Villar’s suggestion runs counter both to the spirit and letter of the Rice Liberalization Law that she herself sponsored.
Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager, noted that RA 11203 was designed to remove all forms of quantitative limits on rice imports and replace these restrictions with tariffs.
“Imposing a limit of one million tons is equivalent to reintroducing a quantitative restriction, which RA 11203 specifically prohibits. The only way you can change that is to repeal or amend the law, which Senator Villar has stubbornly opposed,” Montemayor said.