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February 2024

Rice stock estimate questioned

THE Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) is questioning the Agriculture department’s forecast of substantially higher ending rice stocks for 2023, noting that domestic output growth would be marginal and that imports had dropped.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesman Arnel de Mesa last week said that the national rice stock inventory would be enough for 85 to 90 days or about 3.3 million metric tons (MT) by end-December.

“This is 78 percent higher than the ending inventory in 2022,” FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said.

“How could we end up with more rice at the end of 2023 when production is estimated to be only slightly higher while imports declined significantly due to high international prices?”

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data placed the 2022 ending inventory of rice at 1.85 million MT.

Montemayor said the government had been wrong before with regard to rice stocks, noting that in 2021 the PSA had reported a January 1 inventory of 2.332 million MT.

Output the previous year, however, was 13 million MT and imports totaled some 3 million MT, bringing total supply to about 18.4 million.

As of end-2021, the PSA then reported that the country had 1.86 million MT of rice left, which meant that around 16.5 million MT was consumed.

“After deducting the quantity utilized for seeds, animal feeds, industrial purposes and allowance for wastage, we can conclude that around 14.9 million tons were consumed as food,” Montemayor said.

“This outcome should have immediately raised eyebrows. The derived food usage of 14.9 million tons meant that each Filipino ate an average of 135 kilos of rice in 2021, significantly more than the per capita consumption figure used by the DA (Department of Agriculture) of 119 kilos,” he added.

Montemayor said the discrepancy was never explained.

He added that the rice crisis experienced in August and September this year possibly arose from the “overestimation of local production, which led to a distorted picture of actual rice supply in the market.”

“The data discrepancies will continue to haunt us until we firm up our figures and improve our data collection system.”

In a related development, the PSA on Tuesday said that palay (unmilled rice) production in the fourth quarter was expected to increase by 1.3 percent year on year.

Based on the standing crop as of November 1, October-December palay output could hit 7.32 million MT, higher than 7.22 million MT actually produced a year earlier.

The updated estimate, however, is 0.5 percent lower than the forecast of 7.35 million MT as of October 1.

The rice harvest area, meanwhile, is likely to fall by 1.5 percent to 1.75 million hectares (ha) from 1.78 million ha, but yields could improve to 4.17 MT per ha from 4.06 MT/ha.

About 1.01 million ha have been harvested as of November 1, equivalent to 57.8 percent of harvest area and output of 4.35 million MT.

Of the remaining 739,620 ha, 60.1 percent of the expected crop is at the maturing stage, 32.1 percent in the reproductive stage and 7.9 percent at the vegetative stage.

The PSA also estimated fourth-quarter output of corn to hit 1.94 million MT, down 2.0 percent from 1.98 million MT a year earlier and also lower than the October estimate of 1.96 million MT.

The harvest area based on the standing crop as of November 1 could drop to 615,980 ha, or by 1.9 percent, from 627,880 ha in the previous year.

The expected corn yield per hectare was kept at 3.15 MT.

About 292,200 ha or 47.4 percent has been harvested, translating to 1.01 million MT of corn output.

The remaining 323,790 ha yet to be harvested comprise 55.1 percent in the maturing, 43.5 percent in the reproductive and 1.4 percent in the vegetative stages. QR Code

Published Date: December 22, 2023

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