Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas – The Philippine Star

April 13, 2024 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has lowered its rice import forecast for the Philippines to 3.9 million metric tons (MT) as it expects the country to have a better harvest than earlier projected.

In its monthly global grain report, the USDA slashed its 2024 rice import projection for the Philippines by 200,000 MT from its 4.1 million MT estimate in March.

The USDA attributed the lower rice import forecast to the expected “larger crop” to be harvested by the country this year. 

The USDA now forecasts that the Philippines will produce 12.6 million MT of rice this year, 300,000 MT more than its earlier estimate of 12.3 million MT.

“Global rice production is forecast higher this month mainly on larger crops for Bangladesh and the Philippines,” the USDA said. 

The USDA projected that global rice output would be higher at 53.448 million MT versus its earlier forecast of 53.338 million MT.

Based on USDA data, the Philippines’ palay or unmilled rice yield would rise to 4.17 MT per hectare from last year’s 4.13 MT per hectare. 

The latest estimate is also higher than the 4.07 MT per hectare yield that the USDA projected last month.

Despite the lower rice import forecast for the year, the Philippines will remain the world’s top importer of the grain, according to USDA data.

The USDA maintained its projection for the total rice requirement of the Philippines – which includes consumption and residual – at 16.5 million MT.

The Philippines is projected to end the year with 3.478 million MT of rice stocks, matching the same level it had last year, according to the USDA.

Furthermore, the USDA expects the Philippines to be a growing market for Pakistan rice exports after the former reduced its tariff rate on imports to 35 percent. 

The lowering of the tariff, the USDA pointed out, “eliminated” the advantage of ASEAN member-countries and made Pakistani exports “more profitable” in the Philippines.

“Pakistan capitalized on this opportunity by shipping 150,000 (metric) tons (to the Philippines) since the tariff reduction,” the USDA said.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. earlier said the USDA’s previous rice import forecast of 4.1 million MT is a “worst-case scenario” for the Philippines.

Tiu Laurel said the country’s rice imports would not hit 4.1 million MT since the DA is targeting another record-high palay harvest this year.

The USDA estimated that the Philippines imported 3.9 million MT of rice last year, 300,000 MT more than the figure released by the government through the Bureau of Plant Industry. 

The BPI, which issues the necessary clearance for rice imports, said the country imported 3.6 million MT last year. 

The country’s rice imports in the first quarter expanded by 44 percent to 1.154 million MT from 801,732 MT a year ago, based on BPI data.



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