PHL rice imports seen hitting 1.8 MMT

In File Photo: A worker at the National Food Authority (NFA) in Bicutan arranges sacks of NFA rice.

The Philippines’s rice imports this year could reach 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) after the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice expires next month, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In its latest report titled, “Grain: World Markets and Trade”, the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) said the figure was 28.57 percent higher than its earlier estimate of 1.4 MMT.

“The Philippines is up 400,000 metric tons [MT] to 1.8 MMT on strong demand for lower-priced imports following the anticipated expiration of the QRs,” the report read.

The hike in the country’s rice imports would contribute to the spike in global grains trade next year. Total rice exports next year is poised to reach 42.249 MMT, 2 percent higher than the 41.319 MMT estimated for 2017, according to FAS.

“Import demand from China, the European Union, Africa and the Philippines remains robust. The majority of rice is still consumed within the country where it is produced, with less than 10 percent of rice production traded on the global market,” the report read.

The FAS report also forecasted that Philippine milled rice production in 2018 would decline to 11.2 MMT, from the estimated 11.5 MMT production this year, due to the contraction in areas planted with rice.

Next year the report noted that the country’s rice would decline to 4.5 million hectares, from 4.6 million has this year. Also, average rice yield is expected to go down to 3.95 MT per hectare from 3.97 MT per hectare, according to the report.

According to a separate report of the USDA FAS agency in Manila published in March, the decline in output of the staple could also be attributed to the shift of Filipino rice farmers to other crops, such as corn, following the lifting of the QR on rice.

In its May report, the FAS maintained its earlier forecast that the Philippines will be importing some 1.4 MMT of rice this year.

The Department of Agriculture is targeting to produce 18.57 MMT of paddy rice this year, 5.33 percent higher than last year’s output of 17.63 MMT.

The Philippines’s waiver on the special treatment for rice, which allowed the country to keep its QR on the staple, is set to expire on June 30.

However, Republic Act 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, must also be amended before Manila could allow more rice imports.