RP eyeing additional rice imports of .3-M MT

THE Philippines may buy an additional 300,000 metric tons (MT) of imported milled rice, on top of the 1.5 million metric tons (MMT) it bought from Vietnam, via a government-to-government negotiation.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the purchase of an additional 300,000 MT of rice would depend largely on the summer crops.

“We [will also] estimate the October harvest, so by May or June, we can already decide if we’re going to [import the additional volume]. We can bring in imported rice in small quantities during August, September and October,” Yap told reporters at the sidelines of a media forum held in Quezon City on Thursday.

If 300,000 MT of rice would be brought in, the Philippines would have imported a total of 1.8 MMT this year. Yap said this volume is well within the range the Department of Agriculture (DA) has submitted to the finance department.

“[The government] budgeted for 1.8 MMT. We provided for that,” said Yap.

The DA chief, however, said the government will still determine what mode they will use in procuring the 300,000 MT. He said for now, the government finds it more advantageous to source rice via a government-to-government transaction.

“Even the World Bank is cautioning us against an open tender. Open tender in the world market will move prices. So why will we tender and put ourselves at a disadvantage?” he said.

Earlier, the Philippine government would not confirm if it bought 1.5 MMT of rice from Vietnam. Yap admitted on Thursday that Vietnam had agreed to supply the Philippines 1.5 MMT of rice, but he remains mum on the contracted price.

“This year the 1.5 million MT [was procured at] below $500 per metric ton. Very close to $500 but below $500,” he said.

Yap noted that last year, the government had to fork out an average of $750 per MT of rice as it went on a buying binge in its bid to prop up its stocks. The Philippines bought a total of 2.3 MMT of rice from neighboring Asian countries.

Meanwhile, the DA said part of the initial 500,000 MT of rice it procured from Vietnam had started arriving in the Philippines.

Yap said around 6,000 MT of imported rice have already arrived at the Port of Cebu on Saturday, while some 6,600 MT arrived Tuesday at the Port of Zamboanga.

Around 3,600 MT is supposed to have been delivered at the Port of Surigao Wednesday while 5,950 MT is due to arrive the Port of Tabako in Albay and another 6,000 MT at the General Santos Port.

National Food Authority (NFA) officials said they are also expecting the delivery of 10,000 MT at the Cagayan de Oro Port, but they have yet to confirm the arrival date. (Business Mirror)

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