Despite moves by the Department of Agriculture to increase the country’s local production of palay, global projections showed that the Philippines is still on its way to become the biggest importer of the grain this year and the next.

Based on a report released by the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, the Philippines is expected to import 2.5 million metric tons (MT) of rice this year and 3.3 million MT of rice in 2020—seen to be the highest in the world and the highest for the country.

This would make the Philippines the biggest rice importer for three consecutive years, with a population of 108 million, eventually displacing China from the top spot. The economic behemoth, with a population of 1.4 billion, is only projected to import 2.3 million MT and 2.2 million MT of rice for this year and in 2021.

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said the government’s decision to allow the unimpeded arrival of imports and its campaign to increase local production might sow confusion among Filipino rice farmers, adding that pursuing both policies would inevitably result in an overwhelming glut.

“Based on our computations, we will have an ending inventory by Dec. 31 of this year of 3.9 million MT of rice, good for 110 days, if both these policies are pursued,” FFF national chair Raul Montemayor said. “This will create a glut that will bring down prices during the main harvest season from September to November this year and will even spill over to the dry season harvest from February to April next year.”

DA’s own computation showed that there would be an excess supply for 94 days by the end of 2020, assuming that not all import permits would be used by the private sector. According to the Bureau of Plant Industry, it has approved the entry of 2.7 million MT of rice this year, 28 percent of which have already arrived in the country.

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