• NFA Council to discuss another round of rice imports

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    THE interagency National Food Authority (NFA) Council will meet early next month to discuss details on the importation of the remaining 250,000-metric ton rice reserve volume for this year.

    In a telephone interview with The Manila Times, NFA administrator Renan Dalisay said that the Council would meet within the first week of July to discuss possible gaps in the country’s rice reserves as a result of the prolonged dry spell.

    “We are still collating production figures. There have been conflicting reports . . . some are saying that it is just a mild [El Nino] while others have said it could be longer than expected. The exercise of the standby volume would really depend on the impact of the dry spell,” Dalisay said.

    The Food Security Committee earlier approved the importation of an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice this year on the expectation that local palay (paddy rice) production might fall short of the target.

    Manila has already awarded to Vietnam the contract to supply an initial volume of 250,000 MT of rice in two separate government-to-government tenders this month.

    The NFA agreed to accept Hanoi’s offer of $410.12 per MT for the supply of 150,000 MT rice and $416.85 per MT for the other 100,000 MT rice contract, which will serve as buffer stocks during the lean season (June-September).

    The state-run grains agency is required by law to have at least a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and a 30-day buffer stock during lean months.

    At present, the NFA has 750,000 MT of rice in its depositories— enough for 24 days. The imported rice from Vietnam represents a little over eight days of supply for the entire country.

    The Philippines consumes about 31,000 MT of rice per day.

    For this year, the Philippines approved a total of 1.8 million MT of rice imports—including the 500,000 MT of rice awarded to Thailand and Vietnam in February; the 500,000 MT approved imports for the lean season and as reserve volume; and the 805,200 MT private sector imports under the so-called minimum access volume.

    The approved importation still does not include the 300,000 MT of rice under the MAV that arrived earlier this year.

    In 2014, the Philippines’ rice imports reached over 1.7 million MT, the biggest under the Aquino administration and just 100,000 MT shy of the 2009 level of 1.8 million MT.

    As of May 1, the country’s total rice stocks were pegged at 3.17 million MT, or 25.7 percent above the 2.52 million MT record in May 2014 and 24.6 percent higher than last month’s inventory of 2.54 million MT. The rice inventory is enough for the next 93 days.

    In its May 2015 round forecast, the Philippine Statistics Authority-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (PSA-BAS) further lowered its palay output projection for the second quarter of the year due to the adverse effects of the dry spell, insufficient water supply, and incidence of pests and diseases in some rice-producing provinces.

    BAS said that palay production for April-June 2015 may reach 3.898 million MT, 0.1 percent lower than the April 2015 round forecast of 3.902 million MT and 4.3 percent below last year’s output of 4.073 million MT.

    The agency attributed the lower palay output projection to the decrease in harvest area, which is expected to contract from 0.92 million hectares to 0.91 million hectares. This would offset the overall yield improvement of 4.27 per hectare from 4.25 MT per hectare previously.

    Contraction in harvest areas are foreseen in Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Sorsogon, Agusan del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Mindoro Oriental, Samar and Negros Oriental, the BAS said.

    In Albay, Bulacan, Davao del Sur, Palawan, and Apayao, insufficient water supply and intense heat that affected the vegetative and reproductive stages of the crop may also reduce yield, it added.

    The agency added that the incidence of tungro in Laguna and infestation of stemborer and rice black bug in South Cotabato, and Surigao Norte may also bring down production.

    Rice tungro disease is caused by two viruses and transmitted by leafhoppers, while a stemborer is any insect larva, or arthropod, that bores into plant stems.

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