MANILA – The Philippines has surpassed China in the purchase of rice in the international market, making it the world’s biggest importer in 2019 after President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the import restrictions on grains in March.
This year, the Philippines is set to beat the record figure of 3 million metric tons of imported rice, according to the United States Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Services data.
Rice imports in the Philippines have quadrupled in three years, from just 800,000 metric tons to three million metric tons anticipated for 2019, accounting for 7 percent of total global imports in this sector.
China’s rice import stands at 2.5 million metric tons this year, lower than the projected estimate of 3.15 million tons due to abundant domestic supply.
China represents 5 percent of the total global imports of rice, a staple food all over Asia.
The Philippines has a population of 108 million, compared to 1.4 billion in China.
While local rice production in the Philippines remains around 12 million metric tons – although the figure is lower than the last year – its consumption has increased to 14.2 million.
In March 2019, Manila implemented Rice Tariffication Law, which led to increased imports and consequent fall in domestic prices, prompting protests from local farmers.
The measure sought to increase the supply of rice so that the prices would fall at a time when inflation on basic food had skyrocketed.
According to the projections by the US, Manila would reduce its rice imports in the coming year due to accumulated supply reserves this year and improvements in the local production.
With continuous imports, the country’s rice inventory had grown nearly 14 percent in September, reaching 1.84 million metric tons, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The PSA believes that the current inventory is sufficient for 58 days based on the country’s average daily consumption of 32,000 metric tons.
By 2020, the country’s rice imports are expected to be around 2.5 million metric tons, the same volume as China this year and remaining above the five-year average.
Other large rice importers for 2020 will be Nigeria (1.8 million metric tons), Ivory Coast (1.5 million metric tons), Indonesia (1.4 million metric tons), Senegal (1.2 million metric tons) and Cuba (600,000 metric tons).