Typhoon forces govt to import more rice

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The National Food Authority (NFA) Council has approved the importation of 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to beef the government’s buffer stock, after Super Typhoon Yolanda damaged crops mostly in the Visayas.

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In an interview, NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said that the interagency council has agreed to purchase additional rice stocks through a government-to-government deal.

“The volume will boost inventory of the National Food Authority, which is right now, continuing relief operations to typhoon-affected areas,” he said.

“This will also help augment the volume of rice committed by the NFA to other government agencies conducting the relief operations,” Estoperez added.

The spokesman, however, said that the NFA Council has yet to decide on the date of importation, adding that countries with existing supply agreements with the Philippines will be allowed to join the rice tender.

At present, only three countries—Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam—have existing rice purchase agreements with the Philippines.

“The NFA Council will decide by next week on the timetable for the importation of the said volume of rice,” he added.

“Our priority is government-to-government procurement. There will be no private sector participation as it would take longer preparation,” he said, adding that importation of the additional buffer stock may be carried out within the year.

The Philippines as of November 15 had a total rice inventory of 1.728 million MT of rice, of which some 400,000 MT were stored in government warehouses. Total nationwide rice stock will be enough for 51 days, with consumption placed at 34,000 MT a day.

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 NFA 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.

Earlier this year, the Philippines purchased about 205,700 MT of rice, which was under the omnibus minimum access volume for rice.

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