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July 2024

Farmers, traders tell gov’t to import 500K MT to ease rice prices, supply

Rice farmers and traders have asked the government to import as much as 500,000 metric tons of rice to manage prices and supply, as the anticipated El Niño phenomenon is expected to peak during the summer months next year.

“The immediate solution is the bring in imported rice. Around 300,000 to 500,000 MT of rice imports will be enough to tide us over the next few months until the dry season harvest and sustain prices at current levels,” said Philippines Rice Industry Stakeholders Movement co-founder and president of Goldmine Farm to Harvest president Orly Manuntag.

He said climate change will certainly impact the country’s rice output as well as the planting intention of farmers and the prices of the staple grain.

Already, there are reports that many farmers have delayed their planting cycle for about two weeks to one month to avoid the peak of El Niño.

Some farmers have started planting in mid-December, anticipating harvest by March or early April 2024.

Prices, according to PRISM, are on the upswing and may hit more than P60 per kilogram (kg) even before December is over.

“Landed cost of imported rice is about P46 to P47/kg but with the mark-up of importers it could be at P50/kg. So, it’s possible that rice could be retailing at P60/ kg. While local harvest is said to be at record output, the buying price of palay also went up to P23 per kilo,” Manuntag explained.

On Saturday, rice price watchdog Bantay Bigas warned that prices of regular-milled rice may reach up to P60 per kilogram over gaps in local supply and rising prices in the international market.

Prices of regular-milled rice in some markets in Metro Manila ranged from P52 to P54 per kilogram, Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

In rice-producing province Aurora, for example, the cheapest rice is now at P52 per kilogram, according to Estavillo.

Manuntag said some local government units have also raised the buying price by adding an incentive of P3 for farmers to sell to the government.

But traders went beyond what the government can pay, offering as much as P28 to P31/MT, he said.

“Given these options, the farmers sell to the highest bidder. Even us, traders-millers have to step up our offer, otherwise, we won’t have rice to mill,” he added.

Domestic demand for the grain is expected to peak at 4.03 million tons (MT) in the 4th quarter, traditionally the highest throughout any given year.

Global demand is also up, bringing prices to record levels.

Thailand is selling at $600 to $620/MT while Indonesia was reported to be aggressively buying, shoring up supply to avert a shortage situation due to El Niño.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (DA-PhilMech), distributed P398.5 million worth of agricultural machinery and postharvest facilities to the province of Nueva Ecija.

About 88 qualified farmers’ cooperatives and associations under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund received 25 units of machinery at the PhilMech center.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., who led the distribution, urged the beneficiaries to take good care of the equipment.

“I implore you to take care of these machines. Although they are free, we should still use them with care and appreciation. If our machinery needs maintenance, let us have them fixed so that they can last longer and benefit more people,” he said.

“May this also be the key to unity and prevent divisions within your organizations. Let us unite our organizations while we also work with the government’s good intentions for you and our fellow Filipinos,” he added. QR Code

Published Date: December 11, 2023

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