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News Analysis: Philippines to export rice after achieving self-sufficiency

Source:   Time:

by Alito L. Malinao

MANILA, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Although it will continue to import commercial rice as part of its buffer stock, the Philippines will start exporting quality rice varieties to selected markets abroad next year.

According to Assistant Secretary Dante Delima of the Department of Agriculture, the country would be exporting traditional rice varieties such as colored rice (black, red, pink, brown and purple) , aromatic white rice, and long grain white rice.

Delima, the head of the government's national rice program, said that the Philippines cannot compete in the exportation of ordinary rice so it will focus on premium rice which can be competitive because these varieties cannot be found in other countries.

Among the markets the Philippine government is eyeing for its rice exports are the Middle East and India for long grain and aromatic rice varieties; the United States, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong for colored and heirloom rice varieties; and the European countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

According to Delima, the Netherlands and Belgium are particularly interested in alternative rice varieties.

Delima said that the government would seek the help of the private sector in the rice exportation business. "We will support them rather than do it ourselves. This would be easier," he said.

Earlier Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has assured the public that the Philippines will attain rice self-sufficiency next year despite the damage wrought by the successive typhoons and the massive flooding that hit the country during the last few weeks.

Alcala said that the current rice production of the country is enough to feed the 90 million or so Filipinos.

The government will also keep its cap on rice importation at 100,000 metric tons (MT) in 2013 if rice production target is met this year.

The DA has recently readjusted its 2012 rice production target to 17.8 MT from 18.4 million MT.

The 2012 target tonnage would place the country's sufficiency level at 95 percent. The sufficiency level in 2011 was 94 percent.

Delima said that the government had already made provisions for typhoon-related losses in rice production tonnage in 2013's importation forecast.

The country should achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013 with a target output of 20.04 million MT. By 2014, rice production is expected to reach 21 million MT with 22 million MT projected for 2015 and 2016.

"The effect of that (rice self-sufficiency) will be felt in 2014 wherein the government will no longer import rice," Delima said.

The Philippines is also studying the possibility of exporting yellow corn this year to take advantage of high grain prices brought about by the worst drought in U.S. history.

DA Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna, who is also the director of the national corn program, said that an inter-agency committee has been created to review the appeal of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. for the commercial export of corn.

The Philippines expects corn production to reach a record-high of 7.819 million metric tons this year and about 8.450 million by 2013. By next year, the DA expects the country to have a surplus of 149,000 metric tons.

According to de Luna, they have already advised Secretary Alcala not to wait for the surplus but to start exporting rice, even in small amount "to test the international market".

Aside from the United States, the country is also eyeing Taiwan and South Korea as possible markets for corn.

Agriculture analysts have said that corn exports would not result in a shortage in the local market since the 1.4 million metric tons of feed-wheat, imported earlier by feed millers, will be enough to cover the requirement for this year.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, the Philippines is also free to export rice and corn to any part of the world.

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