By PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The Philippines may no longer import rice next year as palay production is expected to hit a record high this year, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on Thursday.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Makina Saka 2012 Agricultural Modernization Show at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, Alcala said they will no longer push through with the planned rice importation for 2013 if rough rice production will exceed the 18.46 million metric tons target.
“We will conduct a review by the end of the year. If we see that we have sufficient supply, then why would we still import?” Alcala said.
The Philippines has set a rice importation target of some 500,000 MT for 2012, of which some 120,000 MT were purchased by the National Food Authority to serve as a buffer stock during the lean season.
In 2011, the country imported 860,000 MT of rice — with the private sector accounting for 600,000 MT, the NFA for 200,000 MT and farmers’ groups for the balance of 60,000 MT.
Instead of continuing importation of rice, Alcala said they are now beefing up local palay procurement of the NFA, adding that they may seek additional funding from the Department of Budget and Management to boost palay purchases.
“There’s no problem with the budget. The President knows fully well how crucial is the local palay procurement in our goal to attain food self-sufficiency,” he said.
Under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the grains agency plans to buy 1.248 million metric tons of palay from local farmers this year.
It will be the second largest palay procurement for the agency. In 1979, the government purchased more than 700,000 MT of rice, the largest palay procurement in history.
Dante Delima, DA Assistant Secretary and National Rice Program coordinator, said that this year’s rice production will be a record-high, noting that in the first half alone, palay harvest may increase by as much as 5 percent.
“Even if we don’t exceed the target, our importation will be significantly down,” Delima said.
“If ever we will import, it will be between zero to 100,000 MT only,” he added.
This year, the DA targets to produce 18.46 million metric tons of rice, and more than 20 MMT by 2013 to attain a 100 percent sufficiency.
Last year, the country managed to harvest 16.68 million metric tons of rice despite strong typhoons, 5.8 percent more than the 15.77 MMT produced in 2010.