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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        10  March 2011

Fresh Philippine rice imports expected in May

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THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday said fresh rice imports would arrive as early as the third week of May, or ahead of the lean season starting in July.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the timing of the imports is critical to ensure a stable supply of the commodity once the lean season starts.

Alcala said the agency is pushing the Department of Finance (DOF) to approve the Tax Expenditure Fund (TEF) so the bidding process starts this month.

"We have been working closely with the DOF for the approval of the tax incentives. We are not expecting any delays," Alcala said, adding that the Fiscal Incentives Review Board may come up with the decision by next week.

The TEF will be used by the private sector for the importation of 600,000 metric tons (MT), as well as by small farmer cooperatives to purchase 60,000 MT. State-run National Food Authority (NFA) would import the remaining 200,000 MT through public bidding.

Alcala is discussing the schedule and guidelines of the bidding with NFA administrator, Angelito Banayo.

Alcala said the government is keeping its options open for a possible government-to-government deal with Vietnam, adding that this would depend on the NFA if it would conduct the tender for the entire 860,000 MT this month.

"It will be government-to-government deal of handling the importation, the country is not forced to purchase everything from Vietnam, it is just a guarantee, that if the country needs a specific volume, we can be given priority," Alcala said.

For this year, the Philippines is set to import 1.3 million MT of rice, but has indicated it wanted to limit shipments to about 860,000 MT.

In 2010, the government imported a record 2.45 million tons.

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