Philippines tells traders to import more rice to ensure supply

November 22, 2023 - 10:33 AM
Farmers dry their rice crops in the middle of the sun at Brgy. Paligue in Candaba, Pampanga on April 1, 2023. (STAR/ Ernie Peneredondo)

 The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice importers, has given private traders around a month to buy an additional one million tons of rice to boost local supply and keep the cost of the national staple in check.

The deadline was announced by Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel during a congressional hearing on Monday, where he also assured lawmakers steps were being taken to ensure stable supply of other food items such as sugar and onions, his office said in a statement.

“I told them if they failed to import (the additional volume) within 30 days I will cancel the permits because I don’t want to be held hostage by permits that were issued to them upon their request,” Laurel told lawmakers.

Philippine rice imports are handled by private traders. But the state agency procuring rice from local farmers for buffer stocking can import some volume upon approval by the president in an emergency.

The additional imports, which are mainly sourced from Vietnam and some from Thailand, should boost domestic supply until the next harvest in March, the agriculture ministry said.

Unmilled rice output this year was expected to reach more than 20 million tons, above the previous year’s 19.76 million tons, the agriculture ministry said.

Rice price inflation in the Philippines has slowed in October from previous month, helping cool inflation to 4.9% last month from 6.1% in September, but the pace of price increases remain well-outside the central bank’s 2%-4% target range.

– Reporting by Karen Lema; editing by David Evans