The Philippines, the world's biggest rice importer, will need to bring in at least 1.69 million tonnes of its staple food this year to fully cover domestic requirements, a government official said on Thursday.
The Southeast Asian country is playing down the risks of domestic rice supply tightening this year, despite a global market grappling with shipping delays and a worldwide rush to stockpile food.
Its minimum rice import requirement for 2021 is enough to ensure the country, which buys more than 90% of import requirements from Vietnam, will have the required 90-day buffer stock ahead of the lean domestic harvest season beginning July, said Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan.
Despite crop losses due to strong typhoons in the latter part of 2020, the Philippines was projected to have attained a record harvest of 19.44 million tonnes last year, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said earlier this week.
For 2021 the Philippines is aiming to produce 20.48 million tonnes of unmilled rice.
Last year's imports were estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, compared with a record 2.9 million tonnes in 2019, when it lifted a two-decade-old restriction on the size of annual imports.
Since 2019, importers have been bringing in higher volumes than actual requirements, helping temper food inflation but hurting local farmers.
The United States Department of Agriculture has projected the Philippines' rice import volume this year to reach 2.3 million tonnes.
Vietnam, the world's third biggest rice exporter, recently bought the grain from rival India for the first time in decades, after local prices jumped to their highest in nine years amid limited domestic supplies.
Cayanan described the move by Vietnam as a strategy to keep global prices elevated, but he said its impact on the Philippines could be mitigated by improving the country's rice self-sufficiency level. (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty)