The Philippine Star

Phl now im­port­ing nearly same vol­ume of rice as China

- By LOUISE MAU­REEN SIMEON Business · China · Philippines · United States Department of Agriculture · United States of America · U.S. Agriculture Department · Southeast Asia · Asia · Vietnam · Thailand · Pakistan · Myanmar · India · Foreign Agricultural Service

The Philip­pines and China are not only com­pet­ing in terms of ter­ri­to­ries and nat­u­ral re­sources but on the sup­ply of rice in the global mar­ket.

The Philip­pines is set to im­port a record-high 3.1 mil­lion met­ric tons of rice this year, al­ready near­ing China’s re­quire­ments amid a new regime for Filipinos’ main sta­ple.

This year, China is im­port­ing 3.15 mil­lion MT, lower from the ear­lier pro­jec­tion of 3.4 mil­lion MT.

In the lat­est re­port of the United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture-For­eign Agri­cul­tural Ser­vice (USDA-FAS), the Philip­pines is emerg­ing as one of the top global im­porters of rice, nearly at par with China.

Rice im­ports of the coun­try have nearly quadru­pled to 3.1 mil­lion MT for 2019 or seven per­cent of to­tal global rice im­ports from just 800,000 MT three years ago.

In com­par­i­son, China’s share of global rice im­ports has al­most re­duced by half, to just over seven per­cent as well.

This even if China’s pop­u­la­tion is now at 1.4 bil­lion com­pared with the 110 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion of the Philip­pines.

“While China rice im­ports con­tinue to shrink, Philip­pine pur­chases pro­vide much ap­pre­ci­ated re­prieve from nearby ex­porters in South­east Asia,” USDA said.

“Viet­nam is its pri­mary sup­plier with a mar­ket share of about 70 per­cent, fol­lowed by Thai­land, Pak­istan and Burma. Nearly all of the Philip­pines rice im­ports are long grain milled rice, with a small amount of rough rice from China and In­dia,” it added.

This year’s im­por­ta­tion for the Philip­pines is 63 per­cent higher than the 1.9 mil­lion MT im­ports in 2018.

In March 2019, the Philip­pines im­ple­mented the Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Act which led to a con­sid­er­able in­crease in im­ports and, con­se­quently, de­cline in do­mes­tic prices.

Rice is a sta­ple food in the coun­try and the law is in­tended, in part, to spur im­ports in or­der to quell do­mes­tic un­rest caused by in­fla­tion.

While this helped lower in­fla­tion, USDA said the ad­just­ment to rice lib­er­al­iza­tion re­mains a chal­lenge for the Philip­pines.

“As a re­sult of low prices, some rice farm­ers could shift to other crops such as corn. At the same time, the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment is ex­pand­ing sub­si­dies and pro­vid­ing aid to farm­ers im­pacted by low prices,” USDA said.

“With a fore­cast for ad­e­quate pro­duc­tion and large stocks, Philip­pine rice im­ports are ex­pected to de­cline in 2020, but still re­main above the fiveyear av­er­age,” it added.

Fur­ther, higher im­ports are also ex­pected de­spite a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in lo­cal out­put as do­mes­tic con­sump­tion re­mains to be in an up­ward trend.

Pro­duc­tion of milled-rice this year is seen inch­ing up by two per­cent to 12.2 mil­lion MT from the 12 mil­lion MT in 2018.

Fur­ther, rice con­sump­tion has been raised to 14.6 mil­lion MT from 14.1 mil­lion MT last year as ris­ing food prices are forc­ing less af­flu­ent Filipinos to con­sume more rice and less meat and veg­eta­bles.

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