With the El Niño phenomenon expected to continue until the latter half of the year, the country may again have to import rice to replenish before the start of the lean season in June.
In its latest inventory report, the Philippine Statistics Authority-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics said the country’s rice stocks can last for two and a half months.
As of April 1, the total rice stock inventory in the entire country was pegged at 2.54 million metric tons, up by 16.5 percent from 2.18 million MT from last year and 12.2 percent higher than last month’s inventory of 2.27 million metric tons
“The total rice inventory for this month would be sufficient for 75 days. Stocks in the households would be adequate for 37 days. Those in commercial warehouses would be enough for 24 days, and in NFA depositories for 14 days,” PSA-BAS said.
It added that around 49.4 percent of this month’s total rice stock was with households, 31.5 percent in commercial warehouses and 19.1 percent in NFA depositories.
The National Food Authority (NFA) is required by law to have at least 15-day buffer stock at any given time, and 30-day buffer stock during lean months (June to August).
With inventory at government depositories falling below the minimum requirement ahead of the lean season, the state-run grains agency may have to look at buying cheaper imported rice before June.
“Importation would be the best option for the NFA to meets its mandated stocks during lean months,” a source at the agency said.
But Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Modernization (PAFSAM) Secretary Francis Pangilinan, who is also the chairman of the NFA Council, said the inter-agency body has yet to decide on the rice importation plan.
“No decision to import has been made. Let’s just wait for the official statement,” Pangilinan said in a text message.
In February this year, Manila imported 500,000 MT of rice through a government-to-government deal with Thailand and Vietnam. The NFA also allowed the entry of about 163,000 MT of rice under the minimum access volume commitment under the World Trade Organization.
In 2014, the Philippines imported over 1.7 million MT, the biggest under the Aquino administration.
Meanwhile, the source said the NFA may not be able to procure locally grown palay because of the drought.
NFA Administrator Renan Dalisay earlier said they hope to procure 3,796,900 bags or 189,845 MT of palay this year to beef up its stocks for the lean months.