Philippines plans open tender, June delivery for 250,000 T rice imports
* Imports to boost stocks at state grains agency NFA
* Philippines is one of world's top rice buyers
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The Philippines will buy 250,000 tonnes of rice via an open international tender and delivery will be in June, a top government official said, as the country seeks to boost thin state stockpiles and stabilise rising domestic prices.
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who chairs a government panel that approves rice imports, said there was no need to rush the purchase because there were about 3.8 million tonnes of local stocks as of this month, enough to cover 121 days of national consumption.
"We assure the public that there is no rice shortage," Evasco said in a media briefing on Monday, as he announced the panel's approval of the rice purchase plan of the state grains agency, the National Food Authority (NFA).
Evasco also said the local harvest season has begun and will peak in March, which will produce an additional 3.6 million tonnes.
The Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice buyers, saw domestic prices of the staple grain increase by 3-4 percent in late January and rise further this month, as government stockpiles dropped to the lowest in more than two decades. The NFA, tasked with stabilising domestic rice prices, has said private traders had increased prices amid thin supply of cheap NFA rice in the market.
The NFA said last week that its stocks dropped to about 60,000 tonnes, just enough for two days of national consumption. That is well below the required 15-day inventory and the lowest since July 1995.
Rice imports totalling about 507,000 tonnes, part of the 728,475-tonne purchases by local traders that were contracted last year, were also scheduled to arrive between the end of February and August this year, Evasco said.
The NFA's rice imports should arrive after the local harvest season, or in the first week of June, he said.
To ensure a "more inclusive, open and transparent" method of importation, he said the NFA will conduct a tender among private suppliers, similar to what was done last year.
The NFA's only rice purchase last year was 250,000 tonnes sourced from Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, via a tender in July.
Evasco said rice suppliers from Vietnam and Thailand would also be able to participate in the upcoming tender, along with other producers including Laos.