The Philippines is seen importing more rice in the coming months amid expectations of improving economic conditions despite the prolonged pandemic.
In the updated forecast of US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here in Manila (Post), the Philippines rice imports for marketing year (MY) 2021-2022 is seen to increase by 100,000 metric tons (MT) to 2.2 million MT from an earlier forecast of 2.1 million MT. MY refers to the 12-month period at the onset of the main harvest when the crop is marketed. In the Philippines, MY for rice imports start in July.
The Post's projection is based on “expected improving economic conditions and an upturn in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearances in July and August 2021.”
Post pointed out that in July and August of 2021, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) issued 885 SPSICs, representing 642,811 MT of rice, compared to 379 SPSICs covering 273,643 MT of rice issued in the same period in 2020.
Likewise, Post also maintained its MY 2021 to 2022 forecast for the Philippines’ milled rice production at 12.3 million MT, in line with the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) chart from USDA/FAS/GADAS that shows overall crop conditions for the first quarter of MY 2021 to 2022 are not substantially different compared with the same period last year.
Post's updated forecast came a few days after Agriculture Secretary William Dar urged the local government units (LGUs), particularly those in top rice-producing provinces, to help the government buy palay directly from farmers to prop up prices this main cropping season.
Dar made the appeal after it was reported that palay prices in some parts of the country have already dipped below production cost.
Based on the initial survey of Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), palay prices in some parts of the country, including Pangasinan, Tarlac, Mindoro Occidental, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga Sibugay, Davao del Norte and South Cotabato, have already gone down to P12 per kilogram (/kg) to P15/kg.
In Sultan Kudarat, palay prices have been observed to be around P14/kg to P15/kg, which is also based on the survey of FFF charters.
FFF Board Chairman Leonardo Montemayor said palay prices will drop further once the bulk of the harvest comes in October to November. As such, he urged that government must emporarily “restrict rice importations while harvest is ongoing.”
In the Philippines, the cost of producing palay stands at P12.41/kg. This is way higher than the production cost for rice in Vietnam, which is around P6.22/kg, and in Thailand, which is around P8.86/kg.