A rice farmer plows a field in suburban Manila on March 4, 2014 as insect-eating birds fly around him, looking for any prey he may have stirred up. Rice is a staple food in the Southeast Asian nation but rice farmers have been left behind by the country's economic resurgency which has largely benefited other groups like overseas workers, the retail industry and workers in the booming business process outsourcing sector. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO / AFP PHOTO / JAY DIRECTO

Gov’t plans to import more rice next year

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THE NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) plans to import in 2018 double the rice it is bringing in this year, according to a presentation in a budget hearing last week in the House of Representatives.

The briefing, conducted by NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino, showed the state grains agency plans to import some 580,050 metric tons (MT)in 2018, more than double the 250,000 MT it purchased from suppliers in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore late last month as it rushed to replenish depleted state stocks especially for the July-September lean season.

Besides that, NFA also plans to procure about 1.2 million MT of paddy rice locally, more than five times 2017’s 225,000 MT program, the same brief showed.

Ang mandate ng NFA is really to procure local. Pag nagkaroon ng shortfall, ‘dun lang magkakaroon ng importation. (NFA can import only when there is a shortfall in local production),” Rachel Miguel, executive assistant to the NFA administrator, told reporters last week.

In a phone interview yesterday, NFA spokesperson Marietta J. Ablaza said the agency’s local palay procurement totaled 274,411 bags, or roughly just 13,720 MT, in the seven months to July.

The NFA is mandated to maintain a buffer stock sufficient for 15 days at any given time and 30 days during the lean months either via local palay procurement or importation.

The government has also approved private sector importation of some 805,200 MT of rice in an auction that is expected to take place next quarter.

The government last year approved the importation of 500,000 MT but brought in just half of that volume.

For this year, the Department of Agriculture targets to produce 18.5 million MT of palay, 4.93% up from 2016’s 17.627 million MT.

Palay output reached 4.42 million MT in the first quarter, a 12.38% growth from the 3.93 million MT produced in 2016’s comparable three months.

In its latest estimate, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) projects rice production in the second quarter to have increased by 11% to 4.1 million MT from 3.69 million MT a year ago.

The PSA is scheduled to release second-quarter farm output data on Aug. 15 as well as the gross domestic product report for the same period two days later. — Janina C. Lim

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