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PHL seen importing 4.1 MMT of rice this year

12 March 2024

The Philippines’s rice imports for 2024 could exceed 4 million metric tons (MMT) on expectations of lower paddy harvest, according to a report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In its latest monthly report on global grains trade, the USDA raised its projection for Philippine rice imports for 2024 to 4.1 MMT from the previous 3.9 MMT.

“Global rice production is forecast higher this month mainly on a larger crop in India. Total imports are forecast higher mainly on increases for Indonesia and the Philippines. Exports are up for Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia,” the report read.

Indonesia, the USDA said, could increase its rice purchases by 600,000 metric tons (MT) this year.

“Production concerns related to El Niño, rising food price inflation, and an election in 2024 factored into rising Indonesia rice imports. El Niño contributed to a decline in domestic production and delays in the upcoming main-season harvest, spurring higher domestic prices,” the report read.

“In an effort to curb food price inflation, Indonesia’s state-owned logistics company, BULOG, ramped up subsidized rice distribution in 2023, seeking to aid the most vulnerable populations and quell prices prior to the 2024 election. With limited domestic procurement, BULOG has been active in recent rice import tenders and securing government-to-government deals.”

Amid high domestic rice prices, the USDA noted that Indonesians have shifted to consuming more imported rice and wheat-based products.

While imports account for less than 10 percent of its consumption, the USDA said Indonesia imports had a “significant impact” on the global market, accounting for nearly 7 percent of global trade in 2023.

“Indonesia’s growing demand for rice is particularly impactful given India’s export ban on white rice, which has tightened global supplies and led to elevated prices. Indonesia has turned to neighbors to meet rapidly growing import demand,” the report read.

In 2023, three quarters of Indonesia rice imports were supplied by Thailand (40 percent) and Vietnam (34 percent). However, Pakistan emerged as the largest supplier in December, following its 2023 bumper crop, and accounted for 11 percent of 2023 Indonesia imports.

For the Philippines, Vietnam was its top source of imported rice last year, according to data from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

The country’s purchases of imported rice last year fell by nearly 9 percent to nearly 3.5 MMT due to volatile global market conditions such as higher prices and lower supply. Rice imports in 2022 reached a record 3.826 MMT.

Despite the decline in purchases, the country’s imports last year were the second-highest in its history.

The Philippines’s unmilled rice production last year reached a record 20.06 MMT, 1.56 percent higher than the 19.756 MMT produced in 2022, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

PSA data showed that the rice output in 2023 was boosted by irrigated farmlands which produced 15.279 MMT, 2.2 percent higher than the 2022 volume of 14.938 MMT.

In January, the DA projected flat output growth for rice this year due to El Niño.

“Technically, if I am not mistaken, our [rice] production for [2023] is 20 million tons and 2024 [production] should be almost the same due to El Niño,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel Jr. said in a news briefing in Malacañang.

To ramp up food production, Laurel said the government will build more water impounding areas and facilities as well as install more solar power irrigation in more areas.

Last month, the DA made an assurance that the country’s rice supply is sufficient through the first half of this year, with recent imports and the upcoming harvest that peaks in March and April, ensuring stable price of the country’s main food staple through June in spite of El Niño.

Laurel said, however, that prices may stay elevated through September this year, due to concerns over El Niño’s impact on global rice supply and heightened demand for the grain that, consequently, is keeping international prices high.

A total of 750,000 MT of imported rice have arrived in December and January, buttressing local inventory, according to the DA.

The Philippines recently signed a 5-year rice supply deal with Vietnam that ensures a source of 1.5 MMT to 2 MMT of rice a year. India, the DA said, also “promised” to provide the country with additional supply despite the import ban on non-basmati rice.

Source : businessmirror