China still world's biggest rice importer: Agri Dept

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 11 2019 06:26 PM | Updated as of Nov 11 2019 07:19 PM

Farmers harvest palay or unhusked rice in a field in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. Some local groups complained that farmgate prices of palay dropped significantly after the rice tariffication law was implemeneted. Sept. 13, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) denied on Monday reports that the Philippines has surpassed China in terms of rice imports this year following a report released by the United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS)

The USDA-FAS uses a different set of statistics in its projection compared to the “official” data being used by the DA which is provided by and based on real-time data from the Bureau of Customs, DA Assistant Secretary Noel Reyes told radio DZMM.

As of Oct. 23, total imports reached 1.87 million metric tons, Reyes said. The USDA projected China to import 2.5 million metric tons this year, lower than the earlier projection of 3.1 million metric tons citing “abundant domestic supplies.”

“Hindi po totoo…They’re basing their information on a similar figure that we don’t have,” Reyes said.

“Ang imports po natin, wala pa sa 2 million officially as of October, ang malaki pa rin po ang China. Taliwas po ito sa projection na sinasabi ng USDA...Kami, we’re saying para hindi naman alarming, pinakamalaki pa rin po ang China," he said.

(Our imports were less than 2 million officially as of October. China is still bigger. As opposed to the USDA-FAS report. We're saying, so it won't be alarming, China remains the biggest importer.)

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The rice tariffication law, meant to stabilize prices of the staple grain, liberalized rice importation in the country by replacing quotas with taxes. The measure mandated the creation of a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) worth P10 billion to help palay farmers compete.

Some local farmers, however, complained that prices of rough rice or palay plummeted to as low as P7 per kilo after the measure was implemented.

The RCEF is "poured back" to farmers in the form of machinery, seed development, training and credit assistance, among others, Reyes said.