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Agri chief pushes Basmati-type varieties for rice export to Middle East

MANILA, Philippines—The country should start experimenting with rice varieties to export as the Middle East is keen on buying Basmati rice from the Philippines, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.

Alcala said rice self-sufficiency is “within arm’s reach” of the Philippines. He noted that the Philippines could have halted its importation program this year if not for the farm losses caused by typhoons last year.

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Alcala said the country lost 1 million tons of palay (unmilled rice), equivalent to 650,000 MT of milled rice, due to the typhoons.

“So, even if we don’t reach the sufficiency level, our feeling in the Department (of Agriculture) is to begin looking for varieties that we could export like Basmati. We have talked to Qatar and Kuwait and they are willing to accept Basmati rice that we will plant,” Alcala said in a media interview.

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The Philippine and Qatar government recently signed several agreements to boost trade and investment ties. One of the agreements focused on agriculture and fisheries sectors.

The Philippines used to be the world’s top rice importer, purchasing as much as 2 million tons of rice in 2010.

The Aquino government has vowed to make the Philippines sufficient in rice by 2013. Since 2011, the country has drastically cut down its import requirement.

For 2012, the Philippines said it will import 500,000 MT of rice, half of which will be brought in by the private sector.

This year, nineteen rice traders and cooperatives were given permits to bring in half of the country’s rice import requirement, the National Food Authority said. Of that, 11 traders are based in Luzon, the rest are in Visayas and Mindanao.

Those who won import contracts for Luzon were: King Casey Trading, Loui London Trading, St. Andrew’s Field Grains and Cereal Trading, Wish Granted Enterprise, Montevallo Enterprise, Formosa Multipurpose Cooperative (MPC) Riverview MPC, Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunlaran MPC, GPI San Miguel MPC,  St. Dominique Rice and Food Stuff Enterprise., and Pure Country Trading.

The winning bidders from the Visayas and Mindanao region are the Chon Buri Trading, Mahindra Rice and Food Trading, Nemic Fusion Rice and Grains Enterprise, West Point Rice and Cereals Enterprise, Jaded Ranch Grains and Cereals Trading, Red Mountain Grain and Cereal Dealer, Sitio Muzon Farmers MPC, and Sta. Cecilia MPC.

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The NFA said each importer is allowed to bring in 10,000 MT of rice. The agency said the private sector importation program gave the NFA a P1.14 billion income, which came from the winning bidders’ service fee.

The average service fee for this year’s private sector importation was at P6.28 per kilo or P614 per bag, which is a record high despite the lower volume this year.

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TAGS: Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Basmati rice, farm losses, Middle East, Rice export, rice self-sufficiency
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