PHL plans to import 250,000 tons of rice to raise stocks

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Philippines buys 250,000 tons of rice to boost stockpiles
Dock workers unload sacks of rice from Vietnam -- totaling some 10,800 metric tons -- from the cargo ship Vinh Phuoc at the Port of Tabaco, Albay, southeast of Metro Manila, in this July 5, 2007 file photograph. -- AFP

THE PHILIPPINES, one of the world’s top rice buyers, plans to import 250,000 tons of rice as soon as possible to boost thinning stockpiles, an official of the state’s grains procurement agency said on Wednesday.

The Philippines typically buys rice from major exporters Vietnam and Thailand. Prospects of deals with the Philippines have already boosted rice export prices in Vietnam in recent days.

The planned imports would help increase rice inventory at the country’s National Food Authority (NFA) which only stood at nearly 157,000 tons last month — good for five days of domestic consumption.

The NFA’s rice stocks, mostly used to stabilize prices and ensure swift supply to calamity-stricken areas, are on top of inventory held by private traders and households. The Philippines’ total rice inventory stood at 2.85 million tons in December, enough for 84 days of consumption.

NFA spokeswoman Rebecca Olarte told Reuters the NFA’s rice inventory, though still not at a critical level, has dwindled in recent months. It released some stocks into the market to stabilize prices during the typhoon season that began in the second half of last year.

The NFA needs approval for the import plan from the NFA Council, a panel of government economic managers, which meets next week. “Hopefully the NFA Council will see the urgency of the situation,” Olarte said.

If the plan is approved this month, Olarte said the agency expects the entire volume to be delivered in April or May.

The NFA has yet to decide if its purchase will be through a government-to-government deal, or if it will buy directly from private suppliers in the international market through a tender.

Its only rice purchase last year was 250,000 tons sourced from suppliers in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, via a tender in July.

To boost domestic supply further, the NFA allowed local private rice traders to import up to 805,200 tons under an annual quota scheme. — Reuters