By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Philippines will have way lower rice imports, or just about 1.8 million metric tons (MT) of the staple, for this year in contrast with the projection of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the country will maintain its status as the world’s largest rice importer throughout 2020 and 2021.
“Contrary to the USDA projected rice imports of 3.3 million MT, we estimated that for MY 2020 to 2021, rice imports will only reach about 1.8 million metric tons MT,” Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Chair Rosendo So said.
To recall, USDA, in one of its latest Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports, said that in terms of local of rice production, the Philippines will only be able to produce 11.4 mil¬lion MT of rice this year and 11 million MT next year, while consumption is seen at 14.3 million MT this year and 14.5 million MT this year.
Hence, there is a need for more imported rice. For this year, the country’s rice imports is seen to be around 2.5 million MT, while it’s going to increase to 3.3 million MT in 2021, the report further said.
So, however, said that SINAG is optimistic that more areas in the Philippines will be planted with rice in the next months and that local production will be increased.
He further said that with the COVID-19 pandemic, the country needs local farmers to produce more food for the Filipinos.
When asked if SINAG's projection already took into account the planned government-to-government (G2G) importation of 300,000 MT of rice, Jayson Cainglet, the group's executive director, said yes.
Records from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) showed that the country’s rice importation activities during the first four months of this year, compared to the same period last year, have significantly gone down.
In February alone, rice imports went down from 430,488.30 metric tons (MT) to 157,567 MT, while it also slightly declined in March from 293,218.25 MT to 249,916 MT in the same month this year.
In total, from January to April, rice imports have fallen from a total of 1.5 million MT last year to 765,854.64 MT for the same period this year.
“It all boils down to the calibration of rice imports by the Secretary of DA,” SINAG Chair Rosendo So said.
Lower rice imports have resulted in higher palay prices, which is beneficial to Filipino farmers.