THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Friday it is exploring the possibility of sourcing imported rice from other Asian countries, such as Myanmar and Japan.
While there is no “immediate” need for the Philippines to import rice, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the country’s rice-supply shortfall currently stands at 1.8 million metric tons (MMT).
“We are looking at other sources of imported rice in Asia. The rice shortfall is at 1.8 MMT, and the standby authority is 500,000 MT,” Piñol told reporters in an interview.
He said he has already met with the ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, Kazuhide Ishikawa, who agreed to study the possibility of acquiring rice imported by Tokyo via the minimum-access volume (MAV) scheme of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Japan is obligated to import rice [under the MAV]. However, the Japanese don’t like eating imported rice because it’s usually long grain. So what they do, when they can’t dispose it, is to use it as animal feed,” Piñol said.
The DA chief said he has asked Ishikawa if Manila could purchase rice imported by Japan under MAV. Quoting the Japanese envoy, Piñol said Tokyo would determine if WTO rules allow it.
“He said, we will look at the provisions on reselling. If it’s not allowed, Japan may provide it as grant. That’s a big help to us. Can you imagine if Japan gives us 500,000 MT of long-grain rice as grant?” Piñol said.
He said he will also meet with the ambassador of Myanmar to discuss the potential of sourcing rice from them.
The Philippines usually imports rice from Vietnam and Thailand, as Manila has a standing rice-supply agreement with
Hanoi and Bangkok.
Earlier, the National Food Authority (NFA) assured the public the country has enough rice stocks to last for the lean season, which started on July 1 and will end on August 31.
As of June 15, NFA Officer in Charge Tomas R. Escarez said the agency has a rice inventory of 1.02 MMT, which is sufficient for 32 days and is more than the 30-day buffer stock the agency is required to maintain during the lean season.
Meanwhile, he said the Philippines is looking at availing itself of a loan from the Japanese government to step up the distribution of farm equipment to
“I talked to the ambassador of Japan, and we were already talking about a loan that would cover farm equipment—from tractors to planters to harvesters and modern rice-processing facilities,” Piñol said.
He said one concern of the local farmers is the poor quality of their equipment, particularly their milling facilities.
“Right now the milling recovery of rice is lower than 65 percent. We want to increase it to about 70 percent,” Piñol said.