Manila will no longer import rice outside its commitment to the international trade agreements with the country producing enough rice to meet domestic requirements, 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],” Agriculture 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.
At present, the Philippines is allowing 350,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to enter the country annually at 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 the lean planting months become shorter as a result of the early cropping scheme implemented by the DA’s 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 MT. For 2010, Manila imported a record 2.45 million MT.
This year, the Philippines 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 as specified under the World Trade Organization 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.
For buffer stocks
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier said the department is studying the possibility of regularly purchasing the omnibus volume of the MAV to be used as buffer stocks and control prices of the grains.
It will be recalled that from 2011 to 2012, the DA auctioned rice import permits under the private sector financed (PSF), wherein private traders and farmers cooperatives were allowed 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 an open bid on the service fees, as compared to the PSF allocation in 2010 wherein the same was done via a first-come first-served basis. In 2013, however, the government did not allow private sector participation 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.
Meanwhile, Delima also expressed confidence that the NFA will fulfill its mandate to buy locally produced palay (unmilled rice), as the country continues to post record production figures, in line with the government’s self-sufficiency targets this year.
Over the past three years, the country saw an unprecedented increase in palay production, from 15.77 million MT in 2010, to 16.68 MMT in 2011 and 18.03 million MT last year.
This year, the 20.04 million MT production target for 2013 will translate to 13.03 million MT of milled rice to meet the 11.23 million MT of rice needed to feed the population.
For its part, the NFA said that it has 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 was able to buy a total of 7.133 million MT of palay.