Saturday, 24 January 2009

Philippines eyes 5.8% increase in rice output

By Othel V. Campos
The Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business3_jan23_2009

The government expects rice production this year to rise 5.8 percent to 17.81 million metric tons.

Frisco Malabanan, head of the national rice program, said the production target was still preliminary.

“We’re still assessing targets,” he said, claiming that the five-year rice self-sufficiency plan remained unless the government reviews it again.

The government aims to achieve self-sufficiency status on rice by 2013. Rice output in 2008 stood at 16.82 million MT.

The government plans to import rice as buffer stock in the lean months despite bumper harvest and higher targets.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap declined to comment on a rice import agreement with Vietnam.

He said his department was not ready to disclose the volume of imports this year to prevent a spike in rice prices. Yap assured the volume would be less than what the government bought last year.

“We’re still importing less than 2008, because we started with a bigger carryover stock. We have about 28 to 29 days worth of stocks because of aggressive procurement,” he said.

Rice imports last year rose to an all-time high of 2.3 million MT. The department remains tight-lipped over this year’s importation.

“Figures about buying will remain confidential because of experience in 2008. Figures are to be left confidential unless they [suppliers] themselves make those public. It’s very tricky to comment on prices influenced by so many factors,” he said.

He added that suppliers had requested the Philippine government to keep silent on the issue of importation because of the “destabilizing effect on prices.

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