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PH may tap Cambodia rice buffer stocks

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines may decide to choose Cambodia to supply some of the rice it needs to boost its buffer stocks, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said on Friday.

Alcala said the government still has to buy 120,000 metric tons of rice to fill the 500,000 metric tons required for its buffer stock.

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He said a departmental working group is now drafting an agreement for Cambodia, one of the major rice-exporting countries, to supply rice to the Philippines.

“It might be finished by the end of the month,” Alcala said.

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The Philippines, the world’s biggest rice buyer in recent years, has decided to slash imports of the grain to 500,000 metric tons from 860,000 metric tons last year and a record 2.45 metric tons in 2010.

The National Food Authority (NFA), the state grains procurement agency, recently auctioned permits to traders and farmers’ cooperatives to import 380,000 metric tons.

Cheaper deal

The balance of 120,000 metric tons is to be imported by government. Officials said that a government-to-government contract for rice imports would come out cheaper as the Philippines could get preferential rates.

The country currently has a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam, which shares the rice-growing region of the Mekong Delta with Cambodia. In 2011, the NFA imported rice from Vietnam valued at around P4 billion.

Alcala said the Philippines is on track to become self-sufficient in rice by 2013. The government aims to halt the costly importation of the country’s main staple by next year.

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He noted that there is enough supply of rice in 2012. In the first three months of the year, Alcala said the palay output reached 3.99 million metric tons, a slight dip from the record-breaking harvest of 4 million metric tons in the first quarter of 2011.

Alcala said expanded hectarage and an increase in the frequency of croppings would boost the harvest in the coming months.

“Our palay production target remains on track, as we expect to harvest 3.846 million metric tons in the 2nd quarter based on standing crop, and another 3.413 million metric tons in the 3rd quarter based on planting intentions,” he said.

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TAGS: Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Mekong Delta, National Food Authority, Philippines-Cambodia relations, rice import, rice problem
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