Rice production under pressure from El Niño
The Philippines is suffering the worst from the effects of the El Niño dry spell and driving up demand for milled rice imports, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In its latest semestral Rice Market Monitor Report, the FAO raised its forecast on global rice trade for 2015 to 42 million tons, or by 700,000 tons more than the forecast set last April, partly due to Philippine importation.
The United Nations agency said that while the global production of paddy rice in 2015 was forecast to recover slightly from 2014, Asia’s three major rice-exporting countries—Thailand, India and Vietnam—are already under pressure from a lack of precipitation.
“Among importers, crops in the Philippines are suffering most from the effects of the prevailing El Niño anomaly and preparing for its likely persistence until early 2016,” the agency added.
For 2015, the National Food Authority has so far contracted foreign suppliers for a total of 750,000 tons of milled rice.
The FAO noted that the Philippine government has lowered production forecasts for the crop year July 2014 to June 2015 to 18.85 million tons.
This is lower by 150,000 tons compared to the forecast last April, but still representing a marginal gain over the previous crop year’s harvest.
For this, the Department of Agriculture has cited the impact of prolonged dry spells, which cut plantings of the dry season crop by 2 percent to 2.1 million hectares, as well as pest attacks further compromising yields which might have pushed down the output by 1.4 percent to 8.3 million tons.
“As planting activities of 2015 main crops get underway, FAO has also lowered its [crop year July 2014 to June 2016] production forecast for the country to 18.4 million tons,” 500,000 tons below the current estimate for the crop year just ended, the FAO said.
“Underlying the negative outlook is primarily the El Niño phenomenon, which, while linked to a reduced incidence of storms, is commonly associated in the Philippines with a poor rainfall performance,” the agency added.
Also, the FAO observed that 80 percent of the Philippines was already reported to have been affected by lower-than-average rainfall as of May, and that the El Niño was expected to cause less rains in the fourth quarter.
“If confirmed, this could hinder the availability of water for irrigation for the off-season harvest, adding to damages already caused to early planted main crops,” the FAO said.
To address the situation, the DA has been calling on farmers to plant early and to use seeds that are resistant to drought.
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