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RP rice imports to reach more than 1M tons

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     Rice importation is expected to top one million tons this year.
     This is because the El Niño related drought continues to affect cereal production in the country.
     Drought from the El Niño weather has resulted in a 13 percent shortfall in palay production in the first quarter of 1998 according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Rice production could decline further if the El Niño reverse – the La Niña which is expected to bring more rains and thus floods – will follow. The DA said up to half a million hectares of ricelands will be affected by La Niña.
     Because farmers were unable to plant during the El Niño weather, production in the second quarter could even be lower, according to the Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS). A 20 percent drop is expected during the same period, in contrast to the 2.28 million metric tons reported in the second quarter of 1997.
     The lower rice production expected in the second quarter may force the importation of 350,000 more metric tons of rice on drop of the 760,000 metric tons already contracted from Asian neighbors, the DA said.
     This is considered necessary to ensure an adequate inventory of two million metric tons by July 1. This is expected to be good for three months based on a national daily consumption of 22,000 metric tons.
     The increase in Philippine rice imports is expected to affect international prices. Already, prices have been rising slowly since late December when the Philippines and Indonesia began purchasing large quantities of rice in response to El Niño related production difficulties.
     The Philippines imported 500,000 tons of rice in the first quarter of 1998 and is expected to import 150,000 tons of the second quarter. Similarly, since late December, Indonesia has purchased over 1.7 million tons of rice mostly from Thailand and Vietnam, and an additional 1.5 to 1.6 million tons are expected to be purchased in the second quarter.
Most of the decline in the world trade in rice in 1997 was due to the lower imports into Asia in particular into the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

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