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PH still world’s biggest rice importer

By: Karl R. Ocampo - Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 14,2020 - 11:13 AM

The Philippines is expected to remain the world’s biggest rice importer this year even with a slowdown in importation due to excessive supply and improved local production.

In a report published this week, the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services projected the country’s rice imports to reach 2.5 million metric tons (MT) by year-end—lower by 13.8 percent from last year, but still the highest globally.

China, with a population of 1.4 billion, is expected to remain the second biggest rice importer in the world with 2.3 million MT of imported rice.

The Philippines became the world’s biggest rice importer last year with a record 2.9 million MT after the government removed importation limits.

Despite being an agricultural country and with the Department of Agriculture (DA) devoting a bulk of its budget to improve local production, the Philippines’ rice imports have nearly quadrupled in the last three years.

For 2017, the country imported 890,000 MT of rice. This significantly increased to 1.9 million MT the following year.

The government is trying to find a way to temper the onslaught of imports and its effect on local farmers, without driving rice prices up and stimulating inflationary pressures.

Economic managers noted rice prices have gone down to its lowest in six years following the rice tariffication law, but palay prices have plummeted as a consequence, affecting the livelihood of farmers.

Nonetheless, the DA is positive local production would remain steady this year even as some farmers are already planning to shift to planting other crops.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the country’s total rice inventory as of January stood at 2.68 million MT. Based on Filipinos’ average daily consumption of the staple, the volume is sufficient for 84 days.

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