BusinessMirror - - Front Page - By Jasper Em­manuel Y. Ar­calas

THE country has enough rice for at least the next four months in light of re­ports that Viet­nam may sus­pend rice ship­ments to en­sure its stock­pile amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA) has as­sured the pub­lic.

Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Wil­liam D. Dar made the state­ment af­ter for­eign news out­fits re­ported that Viet­nam has tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended new rice ex­port contracts un­til March 28 pend­ing anal­y­sis of its sta­ple in­ven­tory.

“[For us] it is a con­cern. We are putting [it on our] radar screen,” Dar told re­porters in an in­ter­view on the side­lines of his mar­ket watch ac­tiv­ity in Metro Manila on Thurs­day.

Cit­ing lat­est fig­ures from the Philip­pine Sta­tis­tics Au­thor­ity (PSA), Dar said the country’s rice in­ven­tory is ex­pected to set­tle around 2.661 mil­lion met­ric tons (MMT) by end of the month, which is enough to last for 75 days.

Dar added that na­tion­wide rice stocks by end-june are pro­jected to reach 2.3 MMT, equiv­a­lent to 67 days of con­sump­tion at a daily rate of 35,369 MT.

“With har­vest al­ready com­ing in, along with the steady ar­rival of im­ported rice, we ex­pect no short­age of the sta­ple dur­ing the du­ra­tion of the en­hanced com­mu­nity quarantine and be­yond,” he said.

The Philip­pines im­ported about 2.75 MMT of rice last year with 2 MMT com­ing from Viet­nam, PSA data showed. The country an­nu­ally im­ports about 8 per­cent to 10 per­cent of its lo­cal de­mand to plug the short­fall in its do­mes­tic out­put.

The agri­cul­ture chief said, “Re­con­sid­er­ing early plant­ing in most ar­eas, in­clud­ing Re­gions 2 and 3, to boost pro­duc­tion dur­ing the third quar­ter,” which is the country’s lean sea­son or when har­vest is min­i­mal.

Dar re­it­er­ated that they have al­ready pro­posed a P32-bil­lion food se­cu­rity en­hance­ment pro­gram to the gov­ern­ment’s Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Clus­ter (EDC) to en­sure suf­fi­ciency of lo­cal food sup­ply even be­yond the month-long en­hanced com­mu­nity quarantine (ECQ). Un­der its pro­posed Al­pas Covid 19 pro­gram, or Ahon La­hat, Pagkaing Sa­pat Kon­tra sa Covid-19, the DA will roll out in­ter­ven­tions to im­prove lo­cal farm out­put, which in­cludes an P8.5-bil­lion rice re­siliency project to boost sta­ple out­put in ar­eas not sup­ported by the Rice Com­pet­i­tive­ness En­hance­ment Fund (RCEF).

Im­por­ta­tion con­tin­ues

DAR dis­closed that rice im­por­ta­tion has not been halted de­spite the on­go­ing har­vest and added that they are closely mon­i­tor­ing ar­rivals to an­a­lyze the country's sup­ply suf­fi­ciency level. He said the country has other sources for im­ported rice, like Myan­mar, Thai­land, In­dia and Pak­istan, should Viet­nam push through with ban­ning its ex­ports to en­sure its do­mes­tic sup­ply of the sta­ple amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Viet­nam’s sus­pen­sion

VIET­NAM has tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended sign­ing new ex­port contracts un­til March 28 af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Nguyen Phuc or­dered the min­istries of trade and agri­cul­ture to as­sess the country’s do­mes­tic rice sup­plies and ex­ports, ac­cord­ing to for­eign news re­ports. The devel­op­ment was con­firmed to the Busi­nessmir­ror by a rice trader who has sup­ply deals with Viet­namese ex­porters. The rice im­porter said the Viet­nam gov­ern­ment has al­ready cir­cu­lated a doc­u­ment to all ex­porters that ship­ments would be tem­po­rar­ily halted pend­ing the March 28 anal­y­sis of the country’s sta­ple sup­ply. “We are closely watch­ing how this de­vel­ops. But we are not wor­ried since it is a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion from a gov­ern­ment to pro­tect their food se­cu­rity dur­ing these times,” the im­porter said via phone call. The rice im­porter said he does not see the ban push­ing through be­yond March 28, since Viet­nam would be un­able to con­sume all the stocks that would be re­verted to do­mes­tic sup­plies. Be­sides, ban­ning the ex­ports would in­cur huge losses for traders and ex­porters since the vol­umes have been con­tracted and po­si­tioned to be ex­port-bound, the im­porter added. “We have to re­mem­ber that ma­jor­ity of ex­porters in Viet­nam are half-owned by sta­te­owned trad­ing com­pa­nies. They have to do this to show the pub­lic that they are do­ing their best to pro­tect lo­cal de­mand in case the Covid sit­u­a­tion will es­ca­late,” the im­porter said. “If they have to stop ex­ports, I don’t think Viet­nam can con­sume whole the pro­duc­tion. For 2020, their pro­duc­tion curve is based on the de­mand both lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. So if they have to drop the ex­ports seg­ment, they will have prob­lems in over­sup­ply and prices will go down,” the im­porter added. The gov­ern­ment had ear­lier ap­proved the im­por­ta­tion of over 1.4 MMT of rice af­ter it is­sued over 1,800 san­i­tary and phy­tosan­i­tary im­port clear­ances (SPS-ICS) to about 145 grain re­tail­ers, traders, im­porters and farmers’ or­ga­ni­za­tions. Lat­est Bureau of Plant In­dus­try (BPI) data showed that as of Fe­bru­ary 29, it has is­sued 1,877 SPS-ICS to el­i­gi­ble rice im­porters, cov­er­ing the im­por­ta­tion of 1.472 MMT.

Too early to tell

THE United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA) pro­jected that Viet­nam’s rice pro­duc­tion this year would in­crease by 1.91 per­cent to 28.3 MMT from 27.767 MMT last year. Of its to­tal out­put, about 7 MMT would be ex­ported while the re­main­ing vol­ume will be sold in Viet­nam’s do­mes­tic mar­ket, USDA’S monthly fore­cast re­port showed. How­ever, Mon­e­tary Board mem­ber V. Bruce J. To­lentino told the Busi­nessmir­ror that it is too early to as­sess the im­pact of Viet­nam’s plan to ban its rice ex­ports since noth­ing yet has been officially an­nounced by its gov­ern­ment. To­lentino, a for­mer Deputy Direc­torgen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute, said Viet­nam “will not take a de­ci­sion to cease im­ports eas­ily” since it “would mean that Viet­namese ex­porters will suf­fer greatly.” “At this time it is too early to say. The news re­ports on Viet­nam are con­flict­ing and there does not seem to be an of­fi­cial de­ci­sion by the gov­ern­ment,” he said. “Bottom line, the Philip­pines has good stock lev­els held by [Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity], house­holds and com­mer­cial en­ti­ties. It is now about the dry sea­son har­vest, and there is a good crop ex­pected. No typhoons,” he added. The country’s rice in­ven­tory as of Fe­bru­ary 1 grew 10.9 per­cent to 2.375 mil­lion met­ric tons from 2.141 MMT recorded in the same pe­riod of last year, the Philip­pine Sta­tis­tics Au­thor­ity (PSA) said. How­ever, the vol­ume was 11.2 per­cent lower than the 2.675 MMT recorded in Jan­uary, ac­cord­ing to PSA’S lat­est monthly rice and corns stocks in­ven­tory re­port. PSA data showed that rice stocks held by house­holds reached 1.045 MMT, while those kept in com­mer­cial and NFA ware­houses reached 841,150 MT and 488,680 MT, re­spec­tively.


AGRI­CUL­TURE Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Dar and Trade and In­dus­try Sec­re­tary Ra­mon Lopez check out on Thurs­day how ven­dors at the Farmers’ Mar­ket in Que­zon City are fol­low­ing the stan­dard re­tail prices.


AFP per­son­nel help in repack­ing rice to be dis­trib­uted to lo­cal gov­ern­ment units at a Depart­ment of So­cial and Wel­fare Devel­op­ment ware­house in Pasay City.

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