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8 January 2010
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Philippines to tap local market for unmilled rice

The National Food Authority aims to buy 584,000 tonnes of unmilled rice locally in 2010, just over half of its target last year, amid abundant stocks following hefty imports, the Manila Bulletin reported, quoting a senior government official.

The world's biggest rice buyer contracted to import a total 1.82 million tonnes of milled rice from four tenders in November to December, the bulk of them from Vietnam, and is using its option to order 25 percent more from those suppliers.

That would bring the country's 2010 rice imports to 2.27 million tonnes, for delivery between January and June, near the record 2.3 million tonnes it purchased in 2008.

''Our stocks are enough to tide us during the lean months from July to September,'' Romeo Jimenez, director at state-run NFA, told Reuters in a phone interview.

''I'm confident we won't need to do another tender in the first quarter unless there's a major calamity.''

Manila advanced rice imports for 2010 after strong typhoons hit major rice-growing areas in the main Luzon island in September and October, destroying 1.3 million tonnes of paddy rice.

Asian rice prices eased this week after the Philippine tenders ended, having gone up more than 21 percent last month from 2009 lows, when Manila held three import tenders for 600,000 tonnes in a span of three weeks.

Besides tenders, the Philippines also has the option to import rice via government-to-government arrangements, the last one bein done last year with Vietnam, for 1.5 million tonnes.

Manila has offered to buy 370,000 tonnes of rice a year tariff-free from Thailand in exchange for refusing to cut rice duty fully under a regional trade agreement, according to Thailand's commerce minister on Thursday.

The NFA said it bought 450,000 tonnes of paddy from local farmers in 2009, less than half of its target of 1.05 million tonnes, because of the destruction caused by the storms.


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