The FAO has estimated that Philippines is set to import at least 1.5 million metric tons (MMT) of rice this year, 53.33 percent more than the estimated 700,000 metric tons (MT) the country purchased from abroad last year. The FAO attributes this increase to the expected expiration of the World Trade Organization’s waiver on rice this year. It also said the country will be one of the main drivers for the sustained trade of the grain in Asia. “Asia is anticipated to account for nearly all of the forecast growth, importing a total of 21.3 MMT, up 11 percent year-on-year,” the report read. “The expansion is expected to be facilitated by the removal of import duties in various countries in the region or the reengagement of governments in imports in an attempt to keep domestic quotations under control or refurbish reserves,” it added.
The FAO said, apart from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also expected to expand its grain purchases this year. The United Nations unit forecasted that the total volume of rice that would be traded this year would reach 43.6 MMT, 4.81 percent higher than the 41.6 MMT recorded last year. The FAO also noted that the price of rice for exports has started to go up after the Philippines and Bangladesh have sent signals that it would import more rice this year. “Quotations of the most-widely traded Indica rice proved more stable during the first quarter of 2017, but have since gathered speed, amid seasonal tightness and prospects of a return of important buyers to the market, in particular Bangladesh and the Philippines,” the report read. In its “June Market Monitor,” Agricultural Market Information System (Amis) reported that the increase in the price quotas of rice exports in the region was prompted by the sudden announcement of the Philippines that it would import 250,000 MT of rice. Amis, which is the FAO’s marketing outlook arm said, “In addition to shipments to near East Asia and parts of Africa ahead of Ramadan, underpinning came from expectations of near-term buying interest from the Philippines, where National Food Authority stocks were at close to three-year lows.” The FAO estimated that Philippines’ milled-rice production would reach 12.14 MMT this year, slightly higher than its 2016 estimated output of 12.11 MMT. The UN unit pegged the global milled-rice production this year at 502.6 MMT, higher than the 499.3 MMT recorded in 2016.