Additional rice imports likely in 2013 - Alcala

MANILA, Philippines - Will the Philippines meet its goal of being self-sufficient in rice by end-2013?

President Benigno Aquino III earlier expressed confidence it will, saying the country may even turn into an exporter if the weather permits it.

However, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters on Monday, February 4, the government may need to import additional rice in 2013.

He said rice imports for the year may reach up to 200,000 metric tons (MT). That's 100,000 MT more than the earlier estimate.

Still, even with the additional imports, Alcala said the volume will only be less than half of the 500,000 MT imported in 2012. He said the traditional lean months have become shorter because of the implementation of the early cropping scheme.

Under the early cropping scheme, bulk of palay production is held during the early part of the year, or the dry season. The months of June to August, sometimes extending to September, are traditionally considered lean season.

"By implementing the early cropping scheme, we were able to break tradition and expect harvest by June so our lean months have become shorter and so we may no longer need to import that much this year," Alcala said.

In the past few years, the country has reduced its rice imports in line with its goal of achieving self-sufficiency in the staple by the end of 2013.

Of the 500,000 MT rice imported in 2012, 120,000 MT were purchased by the National Food Authority to serve as buffer stock. - with reports from Cai Ordinario/