The Philippines is set to import 187,000 metric tons of rice as buffer stock for this year’s lean season, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said on Thursday.
Alcala told reporters that the National Food Authority (NFA) Council would prepare to buy some 187,000 tons of rice through a government-to-government deal.
This month, the NFA would start soliciting bids from qualified countries for the rice requirement, Alcala said.
Currently, only Vietnam and Thailand have rice purchase agreements with the Philippines.
“The latest date for the bidding would be April. The rice should arrive before June 30 in time for the lean season,” Alcala said.
The lean season runs from June to August.
Alcala said the total volume of rice to be imported by the NFA already covers the omnibus minimum access volume (MAV) for rice under the World Trade Organization.
Under the agreement with the WTO, the Philippines has committed to a minimum access volume of about 350,000 tons for rice, with the tariff rate set at 50 percent. MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce allowed to enter the Philippines at reduced tariffs, while shipments outside MAV pay higher rates. Manila has reduced imports by more than half this year as lean months become shorter due to the early cropping scheme implemented by the Department of Agriculture’s National Rice Program.
“Because of our early cropping scheme, we were able to break tradition so we can now expect harvest by June. In other words, we have shortened our lean months. So we may no longer need to import that much this year,” Alcala explained.
The Philippines was, for a time, the world’s biggest rice importer. It shipped in 500,000 tons of grain last year. Of the total, 120,000 tons was purchased by the NFA to serve as buffer stock during the lean season.
In 2011, the country imported 860,000 tons of rice, with the private sector importing 600,000 tons, while farmers’ groups accounted for 60,000 tons. The NFA on the other hand, imported 200,000 tons during the same period.