‘RICE SUPPLY TO LAST BEYOND LOCKDOWN’
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).
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 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.