THE Philippines may see the biggest volume of rice imports this year at four million tonnes following the passage of the rice import liberalisation bill.
National Food Authority (NFA) acting administrator Tomas Escarez on Monday said the agency had already received more than 200 applications from prospective traders and importers.
The overall volume from these applications is seen to reach two million tonnes, 20 per cent of which has already arrived in the country.
In addition, listed AgriNurture Inc (ANI) president and CEO Antonio Tiu confirmed to the Inquirer that its deal with Vinafood II, Vietnam’s largest grains exporter, would still push through this year.
The exporter agreed to exclusively supply ANI annually with two million tonnes of long grain rice valued close to $1 billion.
In a text message, Tiu said the company was only waiting for the law’s implementing rules and regulations before it would submit an application. It plans to directly sell the staple to the market.
Under the recently signed Rice Import Liberalization Act, importers need to secure only a permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay a 35 and 50 per cent tariff for imports from Southeast Asian countries and non-Asean countries, respectively.
If the imports push through, the total volume will surpass the highest recorded rice imports in the country during the Arroyo administration at 2.34 million tonnes.
Unlike in Vietnam and Thailand where farmers can produce a kilo of rice at six pesos ($0.11), Filipino farmers spend 12 pesos a kg.
Reports from the Philippine Advisory Farmers Board showed the farm-gate price of paddy rice has already declined to 14 pesos per kg in some rice-producing provinces. Meanwhile, in the country’s rice granaries, the recorded farm-gate price for paddy rice was at 18-19 pesos per kg.
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s price monitoring report, the average farm-gate price of paddy rice as of the first week of February was at 19.70 pesos per kg. This was the fifth consecutive week of a price downtrend.
However, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said on his Facebook page that the falling price of paddy rice was not due to the recently enacted law but due to “speculation fuelled by the anticipated ’flooding’ of the market with cheap imported rice”. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ANN