With less than two months left for the year, the Philippines’ 2020 total rice imports so far stood at nearly 2 million metric tons (MT), coming from the usual countries like Vietnam and some unusual ones like China.
As of November 13, 2020, 1.92 million MT of rice already entered the country, compared to the P1.85 million MT that the country imported during the same period last year, data from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
The country’s biggest supplier of imported rice remains to be Vietnam, which exported 1.66 million MT of the staple during the period.
Next to Vietnam are Myanmar (137,314 MT), Thailand (67,824 MT), China (26,130 MT), and India (10,278 MT).
Since China is also a largely rice importing country, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Manager Raul Montemayor thinks that the rice imported from China could be a donation.
“China is too big. Sometimes, it is cheaper for one region to import than to get stocks from a distant surplus region. The region with surplus [of rice] can then export,” Montemayor said.
In 2019, China was next to the Philippines as the second largest rice importer in the world, while also having 1.4 billion population.
But in May, a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that for the market year 2020 to 2021, global rice production will rise amid larger crops in China, Southeast Asia, and the United States.
Global trade, too, is forecast up at the third largest volume, with Philippines still maintaining its status as the world’s largest rice importer.
“Global rice area is forecast to rise in 2020 to 2021. Area expansion is primarily based on resumption of planting in previously dry areas of Southeast Asia, more early-crop planting in China, and a substantial rebound in the United States. Yield is forecast to rise marginally. Production is up by more than 8 million tons to a new record,” USDA said.
Last year, the Philippines only imported rice from Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Spain, and Italy.
At the time, the Philippines imported 2.9 million MT, making it the world’s biggest rice importer in 2019.
For this year, aside from China, the country so far imported rice from Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, Taiwan, and Japan too.
When asked for a comment, DA Spokesperson Noel Reyes was also confused why importers would buy rice from China, when “there are cheaper sources”.
A few weeks ago, the DA made a decision to stop issuing sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) on rice in order to regulate the entry of rice imports.
Of the total rice imports so far, only 2,618 sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-ICs) on rice were used, which means that there are still 1,986 unused SPSIC for this year, or equivalent to 1.82 million MT of rice.