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Importation dependency?

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The latest “Grain: World Markets and Trade” report of the United States Department of Agriculture projects that Philippine rice importation will reach 3.8 million metric tons in marketing year 2023-2024, while China’s imports will drop to 3.5 million MT, making our country the world’s top importer of rice.

Locally, farmer’s group Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) agree with the USDA forecast. “I can see the need for a large volume of imports next year, probably in the range of the USDA forecast, because domestic supply is not catching up with demand. More imports are needed next year to offset the decline in imports in the third quarter this year,” FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said.

The USDA report adds that the Philippines is holding off its rice importation this year due to skyrocketing prices resulting from the rice export bans of India and Vietnam.

Global rice prices have reached their highest in 15 years after the latest export ban policy of India, the report noted.

Based on the Bureau of Plant Industry’s September 7 data, rice imports have already reached 2.33 million MT, with 4.46 percent sourced from Thailand and 89.85 percent from Vietnam.

The projection that Philippines is set to become the world’s biggest importer of rice, during a time when prices are skyrocketing, does not bode well for the country where it is the staple. The Department of Agriculture really needs to step up, either by getting a head that understands the sector deeply and at the most basic level, shows up for meetings, because if rice production does not improve significantly in this country, we will be doomed to many more years of importing rice, at whatever price the world market or shrewd producers decide.

Importing rice should be a short term solution to what has been a long term problem, despite the fact that it doesn’t take a genius to knows how Filipinos are highly dependent on the grain. The question on everyone’s mind at this point would be how the current government, that likes to present itself as focused on the agriculture sector, intends to accomplish that goal of weaning this country from rice importation dependency?*

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