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March 27, 2008

Philippines to import rice from Vietnam

The Philippine government signed an agreement on Wednesday to purchase 1.5 million metric tons (MT) of white rice from its biggest rice supplier Vietnam to prevent a possible food shortage.

The Hanoi government will "try its best to supply" the volume despite a projected decline in Vietnam's rice production, Philippine Daily Inquirer said in a report posted on its website, citing Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Xu Xuan Truong.

The memorandum of agreement was signed in the Philippines' northern Clark Freeport Zone on the sidelines of the two-day 2008 Philippine Development Forum.

The Manila-Hanoi Pact said that the "Vietnamese government agrees to sell, unless under circumstances of natural disaster and harvest loss, and the Philippines to buy up to 1.5 million MT (metric tons) of Vietnamese white rice annually starting year 2008, subject to market and production conditions and to terms allowable under applicable laws of both countries."

The Vietnam Southern Food Corp. and the local National Food Authority are the only government agencies authorised to implement the terms of the memorandum of agreement, which will remain in effect for three years.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said the agreement will help beef up stockpiles and guarantee an ample supply of rice. Yap added that this brings total rice procurement to at least 2.7 million tons, assuring the public that the country has enough rice for the whole year.

Rice is a national staple food of Filipinos, accounting for 9.4 percent of total food consumption in the country. The country consumes 11.9 million metric tons of rice annually. As the rice price rose over the past months, Filipinos began to be afraid of a possible food shortage.

Although the Philippines itself is a major rice producer, the country imported 1.87 million tons of rice last year, making it one of the world's top importers of the grain.

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