THE GOVERNMENT is waiting to assess the impact of three typhoons on major rice-producing provinces in the fourth quarter before deciding whether it will resort to rice imports next year, the National Food Authority (NFA) said.
The NFA said it has a pending proposal for another 250,000 metric tons of government-to-government rice imports in the first quarter of 2017, which remains subject to approval.
“The NFA’s recommendation for rice importation is still for evaluation of the NFA Council,” said Marietta J. Ablaza, spokesperson for the state-run agency, in a phone interview last week.
Among the factors being evaluated were the impact on production of typhoons Karen and Lawin, which hit the country in October, and typhoon Nina this week.
The importation deal, should it push through, will be slated under a government-to-government procurement scheme.
Typhoons Karen and Lawin caused estimated losses of 516,133 MT of palay, or unmilled rice, valued at P11.03 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Nov. 4 damage report.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that palay output may come in at 17.91 million MT for 2016, lower than the 2015 total of 18.15 million MT, after a prolonged dry spell reduced the area harvested this year.
In a statement released over the weekend, the NFA, however, assured that rice stocks are sufficient in typhoon Nina-affected areas with the agency’s release of more than 10,000 50-kilo bags for distribution to typhoon victims.
The National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) director for agriculture, natural resources and environment, Mercedita A. Sombilla, who chairs the NFA Council, said that the domestic supply and demand situation of rice will still have to be assessed some time in January.
Even in light of the recent typhoon, Ms. Sombilla said that the government sees no urgent need for the Philippines, one of the world’s top rice importers, to open up orders for imports.
“We are still assessing damage to agri. I would think (it is) not necessary since all rice planted are supposed to be harvested now,” Ms. Sombilla, also a NEDA Assistant Secretary, said in a text message on Tuesday.
On Monday, the typhoon cut through southern Luzon and the eastern Visayas, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the weather bureau also known as PAGASA.
The country has 250,000 metric tons remaining from a standby authority to import 500,000 MT approved by the previous government.
As of Nov. 1, rice stocks stood at 3.30 million MT, sufficient for 97 days of consumption.
The initial 250,000 MT standby authority was awarded to the world’s top rice exporters on Aug. 31 — with Thailand and Vietnam winning 100,000 MT and 150,000 MT, respectively, under the government-to-government import scheme.
In addition, the NFA in September opened up to private traders the importation of an additional 805,200 metric tons of rice under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme.
The MAV rice importation program allows private traders to apply for the delivery of 293,100 MT each from Thailand and Vietnam.
Under the omnibus origin scheme, importers can also buy up to 50,000 MT each from China, top suppliers India and Pakistan, up to 15,000 MT from Australia, up to 4,000 MT from El Salvador, and 50,000 MT from any other country.
In its list of applicants posted Dec. 21 on its Web site, the NFA has so far authorized shipments totaling 641,080 tons from Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, and India.
All rice under the MAV importation scheme is expected to arrive in the country not later than Feb. 28 next year and is subject to a 35% tariff.