PH seen to import 1.69 million MT of rice this year

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 7) — The Philippines is seen to import 1.69 million metric tons of rice in 2021, the Department of Agriculture said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said this is lower than the 2 million MT of rice imported last year. However, he noted that this will still depend on rice importers given the liberalized set up in the country's rice trade because of the Rice Tariffication Law.

"Mga around 1.69 million metric tons ang kailangan po nating angkatin, pero nakadepende pa rin kung ilan ang aangkatin ng ating private sector kasi nasa liberalized trade na tayo," he said on Thursday.

[Translation: We need to import around 1.69 million metric tons, but this will still depend on how much the private sector will import because we are already in a liberalized trade.]

Signed into law in 2019, the Rice Tariffication Law removed restrictions on importing rice, while imposing a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain. As of December 4, the Bureau of Plant Industry has recorded around 1.97 million MT of imported rice in 2020.

Despite lower import projections in 2020, the Philippines is still seen to be one of the world's top rice importer along with China, the United States Department of Agriculture said in December.

The foreign agency had projected 2.3 million MT of imported rice to enter the Philippines, 20% lower than 2019's 2.9 million MT.

Cayanan added that this projected level of rice imports will also help in achieving target production of 20.48 million MT for 2021, as well as in maintaining around 99-day stock level by the end of the year.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier said this target will be supported by programs such as the annual P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund that will bankroll the promotion of hybrid seeds, loan programs, and training for rice farmers, to name a few.

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Dar also said the rice sector has recorded its highest rice production level in 2020 at 19.4 million MT, beating 2017's 19.276 million MT. It is also 3% more than 2019's total harvest of 18.814 million MT.