Manila. The Philippines' state grains buyer said on Monday (10/04) it needed to buy 490,800 tons of rice to boost its stockpiles, which have fallen below the required level ahead of the country's July-to-September lean harvest season.
The National Food Authority has sought approval from the NFA Council for the immediate importation of 250,000 tons of rice under a government-to-government arrangement.
The balance of 240,800 tons could be purchased from local farmers or also imported.
Major rice suppliers Vietnam and Thailand are keeping an eye on any fresh demand from the Philippines, one of the world's biggest buyers, but the NFA Council composed of the country's economic managers has yet to approve any purchase.
"At present, the NFA needs an additional 490,800 metric tons, or 9.8 million bags, of rice to meet the mandated volumes for food security," NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino said in a statement.
The NFA, the government's food security watchdog, is required to maintain a rice stockpile good to last for 15 days at any given time and for 30 days at the onset of lean months. Its stocks were good for only 14 days as of February.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol has insisted there is no urgent need to import rice because of an anticipated bumper harvest locally.
He reiterated that stance in a statement on Sunday, saying that he expects the local rice harvest in the first quarter to be 210,000 tons more than the same period last year.
"Any importation at this time will result in the collapse of the buying price of [local] paddy rice to the disadvantage of the farmers," Piñol said.
The NFA's Aquino, however, wants rice imports to arrive as early as this month to allow the agency time to prepare for any calamities and assured Pinol that no imports would be released into the market to compete with commercial stocks.