The inter-agency National Food Authority (NFA) Council has approved importation of another 500,000 metric tons of rice this year on expectations that local palay (unhusked rice) production will fall short of target, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday.
In an interview, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala disclosed that Manila plans to import 250,000 MT to serve as buffer stock during the so-called lean season (June-September), while delivery of the remaining 250,000 MT still has to be decided by the NFA.
The state-run grains agency is required by law to have at least 15-day buffer stock at any given time, and 30-day buffer stock during lean months.
Once completed, the new round of imports will bring total rice shipments to the Philippines to 1.3 million metric tons for this year.
In February this year, Manila imported a total of 500,000 MT of rice through a government-to-government deal with Thailand and Vietnam.
The NFA also allowed entry of about 300,000 MT of rice under the minimum access volume commitment under the World Trade Organization.
In 2014, the Philippines’ rice importation reached over 1.7 million MT, the biggest under the Aquino administration, and closer to the 2009 level of 1.8 million MT.
“Based on projections, we will unlikely hit our target of 20.08 million MT of rice by end of the year. So the council has agreed to import to fill the possible gap in our rice requirement,” Alcala said.
Despite another expected record year for the palay sector, the DA chief admitted that the rice self-sufficiency goals remained elusive because of shortfalls in irrigation and other government interventions.
“By end of this year, our sufficiency level will be around 96-97 percent with more than 19 million MT of rice to be produced this year. This is roughly the same level last year,” he said.
The Bureau of Agricutlural Statistics said palay production reached 4.367 million MT in January-March 2015, higher by 1.41 percent from 4.306 million MT a year ago.
The positive growth was largely attributed to expansion in harvest areas and improvement in yields of irrigated palay.
Forecasts on standing crops of palay indicate lower production in the second quarter of 2015 that may bring about reduction in outputs for the staple crop in the first half of 2015.
The NFA attributed the lower projected output to effects of a dry spell on some crops.
The April-June 2015 forecasts on standing crops indicate palay production of 3.90 million MT, 4.21 percent below the 4.07 million MT output in 2014, while the total first half production may reach 8.27 million MT, 1.32 percent below the 8.38 million MT output in 2014.