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Record level of rice imports seen this year

/ 05:03 AM February 19, 2019

The Philippines may see the biggest volume of rice imports this year at 4 million metric tons (MT) following the passage of the rice import liberalization bill.

Acting Administrator Tomas Escarez of the National Food Authority (NFA) said on Monday the agency had already received more than 200 applications from prospective traders and importers.

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The overall volume from these applications is seen to reach 2 million MT, 20 percent 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 2 million MT 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-percent 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 MT.

Unlike in Vietnam and Thailand where farmers can produce a kilo of rice at P6, Filipino farmers spend P12 a kilo.

Reports from the Philippine Advisory Farmers Board showed the farm-gate price of palay has already declined to P14 a kilo in some rice-producing provinces. Meanwhile, in the country’s rice granaries, the recorded farm-gate price for palay was at P18-P19 a kilo.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s price monitoring report, the average farm-gate price of palay as of the first week of February was at P19.70 a kilo. This was the fifth consecutive week of a price downtrend.

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However, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on his Facebook page that the falling price of palay was not due to the recently enacted law but due to “speculation fueled by the anticipated ’flooding’ of the market with cheap imported rice.”

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