Because it is producing enough rough palay to meet domestic requirements, the country will no longer import rice, outside its commitment to the international trade agreements, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Monday.
“If ever we are going to import rice next year, it will be within our minimum access volume (MAV),” DA Assistant Secretary Dante Delima told reporters.
MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce, such as rice, allowed to enter into the Philippines at reduced tariffs.
The Philippines is allowing 350,000 metric tons of rice to enter the country annually at the reduced tariff rate of 40 percent, while shipments outside MAV pay higher rates.
Delima, who is also the National Rice Program coordinator, said that sustained good harvest and increased rice procurement from local farmers has helped the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase buffer stocks, which in turn eliminated the country’s reliance on imported rice.
Manila has reduced imports by more than half this year as lean months become shorter as a result of early cropping implemented by the DA-National Rice Program.
At one point the world’s biggest rice importer, the Philippines imported 500,000 MT last year. Of the total, 120,000 MT was purchased by the National Food Authority to serve as buffer stock during the lean season.
In 2011, the country imported 860,000 MT of rice, with the private sector importing 600,000 MT and farmers’ groups, 60,000 MT. The NFA imported 200,000. For 2010, Manila imported a record 2.45 million MT.
This year, the Philippines has imported only 187,000 MT of rice, which was under the omnibus minimum access volume for rice. The balance of 163,000 MT shall be imported under the MAV- country specific quota (CSQ) as specified under the WTO agreement.
“To date, there are still no takers for the country specific quota,” Delima said, noting that traders are not keen on utilizing the MAV because of good local production.
“The trade environment is not conducive for importation,” he added.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier said they are studying the possibility of regularly purchasing the omnibus volume of the MAV to be used as buffer stocks and control prices of the grains.
From 2011 to 2012, the DA auctioned rice import permits under the Private Sector Financed (PSF) program, which allows private traders and farmers cooperatives to import rice at zero tariff in exchange for service fees paid to the grains agency.
For the past two years, the allocation for the PSF was done via open bidding on the service fees, as compared to the PSF allocation in 2010 wherein it was done on a first come-first served basis.
In 2013, however, the government did not allow the private sector to participate in its rice importation requirement.
“With the government taking over the omnibus MAV, we can control how we use the volume of rice that we import,” Alcala said.
Delima is confident the NFA will fulfill its mandate to buy locally produced palay, as the country continues to post record production figures.
Over the past three years, the country has seen a dramatic rise in rice production, from 15.77 million MT in 2010, to 16.68 MMT in 2011, and 18.03 MMT last year.
This year, the 20.04 million MT production target for 2013 will translate to 13.03 MMT of milled rice to meet the 11.23 MMT of rice needed to feed the population.
For its part, the National Food Authority said it has already exceeded its palay procurement target – buying more than 5.616 million MT in January to June 2013, or 143 percent higher than the 3.920 million MT target.
In 2012, the NFA bought a total of 7.133 million MT of palay.
JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ