THE Philippines’s rice imports have breached 3.6 million metric tons (MMT), posting a new record volume for the world’s second largest buyer of the grain.
Latest Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) figures showed that a total of 3.645 MMT of rice have entered the country as of mid-December.
The volume is already 31.54 percent higher than the 2.771 MMT total rice imports recorded for the entire 2021, based on historical BPI data.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier projected that the Philippines’s total rice imports this year would reach at least 3.5 MMT, driven by higher purchases from Vietnam.
Based on USDA’s estimates, the Philippines is the world’s second biggest buyer of rice behind China.
BPI data showed that about 3 MMT of the total rice imports as of December 15 came from Vietnam. It was followed by Myanmar at 233,298 MT, Thailand at 174,056 MT and Pakistan at 170,779 MT.
BPI data showed that 147 eligible rice importers used a total of 4,066 sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) in bringing in the foreign rice supplies into the country.
The rice importers also purchased rice from China, India, Japan, Singapore and Spain during the reference period.
NAN STU Agri Traders topped the list of rice importers with a total import arrival of 199,540.35 MT followed by Lucky Buy and Sell (163,763 MT) and Manus Dei Resources Ent. Inc (154,571.28 MT), based on BPI data.
Agriculture Undersecretary Mercedita A. Sombilla earlier said the increase in the country’s rice imports this year was a “blessing in disguise” since it compensated for the decline in local production due to expensive fertilizer and impact of typhoons.
Earlier, high-ranking agriculture officials revealed that the national government will continue its practice of “managing” the entry of rice imports by slowing down the issuance of pertinent import documents during harvest seasons as authorities “balance” local production and foreign supplies. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/12/20/slowdown-in-issuance-of-spsics-stays-as-tool-to-manage-rice-imports/)
They also hinted that they may issue fewer SPSICs that would cover import arrivals in the first half should official figures indicate abundant supply.
Since the rice trade liberalization law took effect in 2019, authorities have been looking for ways to manage the arrival of rice imports to avert an oversupply that would depress farm-gate prices of local palay.
One of the ways the government limits the entry of rice imports especially during harvest seasons is by slowing down on the issuance of SPSICs.
The last time the BPI issued SPSICs for rice imports was June 6, with a corresponding volume of a little over 625,000 MT.
The BPI, an attached agency of the DA, is mandated under Republic Act 11203 or the RTL law to oversee rice importation through issuance of SPSIC. The SPSIC is a required import document that certifies an imported good or product is safe for human consumption and health and does not bring in any threats to the local agriculture sector such as plants and animals.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes