NFA looking at Q1 rice imports to minimize domestic price impact

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Workers unload sacks of rice at a warehouse of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Manila. -- AFP

THE National Food Authority (NFA) hopes to time rice imports for early 2018, in order to stabilize inventories after the rainy season, with an eye towards not distorting prices realized by domestic rice farmers.

“Early next year we may make that recommendation. It’s the pre-harvest period so the local market price will not be affected,” NFA Grains Marketing Operations Director Rocky L. Valdez said.

The NFA has said it may need to import 580,050 metric tons (MT) of rice in 2018.

The volume, according to Mr. Valdez, is the projected “production shortfall” for next year and will help buoy rice stocks after the rainy season.

He added that the volume may be imported under a government-to- private scheme as the NFA Council proposed in the last rice importation round opened July this year in which the 250,000 MT volume was divided into eight lots.

“It may come as one time or in tranches,” he added, noting that the latter is the more viable option in order for government to schedule deliveries optimally.

Mr. Valdez said that the plan has yet to be elevated to the NFA Council, the governing body that has the final say on rice import decisions.

This year, the government ordered 250,000 MT from six bidders, mostly from Vietnam, to supplement the rice supply during the lean months from July to September.

The shipments are expected to arrive in tranches during the lean months; 120,000 tons by last month and the remaining 130,000 tons in September.

Also, last month, the government opened up the private-sector importation channel for 805,200 MT of rice.

As of Sept. 11, Mr. Valdez said the NFA has received about 30 applications, mostly from farmers cooperatives, amounting to 200,000 MT.

The deadline for the submission of letters of intent to import is on Sept. 27. — Janina C. Lim