Philippine rice imports are projected to reach a record 3 million metric tons (MT) by year-end, making the country the top rice importer in 2019, beating China, according to a monthly report by the United States (US) Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS).
The USDA-FAS’s 2019 estimate for Philippine rice imports is 58% higher than the 1.9 million MT imported last year, and 275% up from the 800,000 MT imported in 2017. Philippine rice imports this year will also account for 7% of the world’s total rice imports.
In comparison, China—traditionally the world’s biggest rice importer—is importing 2.5 million MT this year, lower than the earlier projection of 3.15 million MT due to abundant domestic supply. China’s share of the world’s total rice imports has also been reduced by half to just 5% to 6%.
Other large rice importers this year include Nigeria (1.8 million MT), Cote d’Ivoire (1.4 million MT), Benin (600,000 MT), and Bangladesh (100,000 MT).
The Philippines’ huge importation of the staple this year is attributed mainly to the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, which took effect on March 5, 2019. The law replaced the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports with tariffs in a bid to further slash rice prices and bring down living costs.
The Bureau of Customs earlier said an increase in privately imported rice has been observed with the implementation of RA 11203. For the months of March to June 2019, the agency recorded an import volume of 966,690 MT, 422.25% higher than the 185,100 MT imported in the same period in 2018.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the country’s rice inventory surged 43% in October 2019 to 2.28 million MT from last year’s 1.59 million MT.
For 2020, USDA-FAS predicts that the Philippines’ rice importation will decrease to 2.5 million MT to “reflect the preliminary investigation into import safeguards.”