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NEWS UPDATES 13 October 2009

Philippines to import rice to offset crop damage   

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The Philippines, the world’s biggest rice importer, is set to import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice after farmlands across northern Luzon suffered the brunt of recent storms, reported the Philippines Daily Inquirer.

Philippines’ National Food Authority is expected to hold a tender for the shipment on October 30. Date of delivery has been tentatively set between January and April. The Department of Agriculture was quick to downplay the urgency of the rice importation for 2010.

Officials are concerned that a wrong signal may send rice prices skyrocketing, as what had happened in 2008. In April that year, price of the cereal peaked at $1,080 per MT.

NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said in a phone interview that the decision to ship just a “small amount” of rice ahead of time was meant to minimize the effect on world market prices.

“We usually bare our requirements for next year around December, but we did this two months earlier because we don’t want to wait until the need is huge and urgent,” Estoperez said. “We also don’t want to wait until more typhoons ravage rice-producing countries who may supply us.”

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on Monday assured the public that there was enough stock of the staple to last for the rest of the year.

He acknowledged that the country’s farmers only harvested 5.7 million MT of rice in the fourth quarter of 2009 (nearly 10 percent off the target of 6.4 million MT).

Still, he said, “even if we don’t harvest this quarter, we have two months worth of stock. And since we will still harvest, that’s good for another 104 days.”

Yap said on radio that the storms had caused damage of P11 billion ($237 million) to crops and farmland, but insisted there would be no immediate shortage of rice. “We don’t have a rice supply problem,” he stressed.

According to a tender bulletin published by the NFA, source countries have been identified as Thailand, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, Australia, the United States and India.

The maximum quantity to be awarded for India is 25,000 MT, while a cap of 50,000 MT was set for Pakistan, Australia, and the United States. No limit has been set for rice coming from Vietnam, Thailand and China.

Suppliers must be able to commit delivery of at least 20 percent of the rice in January 2010, followed by 25 percent in February, 25 percent in March, and the rest in April.


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