As per the local sources, it has been reported that the Italian Minister of Agriculture has submitted a document to the European Commission (EC) Rice Committee urging it to apply duties to zero-duty EU rice imports from the Asian Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through a safeguard clause to protect the local rice sector. In this matter, according to the document it has been revealed that the EU rice import situation is totally out of control. Therefore, the Agriculture Ministry has sought to activate emergency measures to limit imports of rice at zero duty. It has also stated that the aim is to rebalance internal production as per the real needs of the market. On this point Italy has already required restoring normal duties through the activation of the safeguard clause.
Furthermore, in this regard, the document has reported that an increase in rice imports coupled with the slowdown in the volume of communitarian exports and low international prices, is creating surplus rice supplies in the EU, which is further leading to lower paddy market prices in the region. It also described that total rice imports to EU, including those from the Asian LDCs under the ‘Everything But Arms’ agreement as well the other free trade agreements, reached around 633,000 tons (milled equivalent) in the first six months of crop year (cy) 2015-16 (September 2015 – February 2016), up about 112,000 tons as compared to the imports during the same period last year.
In addition, it has also been indicated as per document that an increase in imports has already surpassed the EC’s target increase of 97,000 tons for the whole year. Moreover, as per the EU data, the document also revealed that the EU stock level in cy 2015-16 is likely to reach 585,000 tons as against 440,000 tons in cy 2014-15, 472,000 tons in cy 2013-2014, 540,000 tons in cy 2012-13, 494,000 tons in cy 2011-12 and cy 471,000 tons in 2010-11.