There is no rice shortage.

This was reiterated by Agriculture Secretary William Dar following warnings from industry groups and some lawmakers of an inadequate rice supply, as Luzon remained under enhanced community quarantine to control and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Dar said aside from the two-month buffer stock held by the National Food Authority, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has already set in motion programs that would increase the country’s rice output even after the current crisis.The agency forecasts the country’s demand this year will hit 14.62 million metric tons, while supply is projected at 13.5 million MT. The shortfall is expected to be augmented by the DA’s rice resiliency project, including hybrid rice production and increasing credit assistance for farmers, which should raise the country’s output by 889,061 MT.

“This means from the present rice adequacy level of 87 percent, we would be able to raise this to 93 percent. We have the money to improve production, our P31-billion proposal has just been approved,” Dar said. “Again, I would like to repeat that rice is enough and we have sources.”In terms of imports, Dar noted about 1.85 million MT of rice were expected to enter the country. Of that volume, 492,000 MT have already arrived as of March.Dar said of the remaining volume, 90.67 percent would be sourced from Vietnam while the rest would be coming from Thailand and Myanmar.

“The government has an ongoing discussion with Vietnam now. The feedback has been very positive. They said they have not yet reached a decision to halt exports. We told them that the rice that were already contracted to us must be delivered. We are a good trading partner in normal times and during times of crisis; they must help us,” the secretary added.With enough supply and reported improvements in local and national checkpoints, Dar said the problem could be the worsening congestion at the country’s ports.

He said these bottlenecks should be addressed to improve the distribution and positioning of basic food items and avoid spikes in the prices of commodities.

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