US foresees more RP rice imports next year
By Melody M. Aguiba
Manila Bulletin, December 3, 2003

The Philippines is foreseen by the United States government to continue to import rice in 2004 at still high levels ranging from an official 800,000 metric tons (MT) to one million MT including smuggled rice despite government's rice sufficiency program as production has not exactly moved up as planned.

The foreign agricultural service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the Philippines is still expected to import, including smuggled rice, at least one million MT for 2004.

"Rice production estimate was revised downwards consistent with the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) attributes production decline to a smaller area planted as a result of a prolonged, but mild, El Niņo dry spell in the first quarter of CY (calendar year) 2003. The DA had earlier projected CY 2003 paddy rice output to reach around 14.2 million MT but subsequently adjusted this target to a more realistic 13.2 million MT," the USDA said.

USDA noted that smuggled rice for 2004 may account for 200,000 MT as smuggling can never be abated due to the high price of rice locally.

"The entry of illegal rice imports is expected to continue for as long as local prices remain high relative to prices in neighboring countries," it said.

Moreover, it said that the 2004 elections will actually push import volume up.

"Significant rice imports are likely to address food security concerns in the face of elections scheduled in May 2004. Some quarters, though have criticized the 'overimportation' as detrimental to the small rice farmer," it said.

The Philippines imports rice from the US through the USDA's PL480 commodity program which is a soft loan under which government contracted rice totalling to 117,000 MT for 2003 which will arrive in the first quarter of 2004. In 2001, it imported around 105,000 MT of rice from the US through the same program.

The USDA said the country's large rice import is also attributable to production inefficiencies and post harvest losses.

"Losses due to spoilage and post harvest wastage further bloat consumption estimates. These losses arise from inadequate farm to market roads, drying and milling facilities as well as storage infrastructure. These inefficiencies partly explain the numerous intermediaries that compose the rice-supply and distribution chain which eventually drive up retail prices. Estimates on post harvest losses reach as high as 20 to 30 percent of harvested paddy rice," it said.

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