PBBM looks to Asean allies for rice imports


DESPITE the country’s recently reported sufficient rice supplies, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is now eyeing more imports of the food staple from Vietnam and Cambodia to ensure the country’s long-term food security.

At the sidelines of the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Indonesia, Marcos met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to discuss a possible five-year rice supply agreement.

Vietnam and Thailand are the country’s traditional sources of rice imports. 

During the first five months of the year, the country imported 1.5 million tons of rice from Vietnam, worth US$772.4 million.

Marcos, who is also the Agriculture secretary, said the proposed supply agreement aims to address future volatility in the rice market.  

“The suggestion of a longer-term arrangement is an important one because just having that as an assurance will stabilize the situation, not only for the Philippines, but for all of us in the region,” Marcos told Pham.

They also talked about fishery and maritime cooperation as well as security and defense matters.

In 2008, Vietnam agreed to sign a Memorandum of Agreement, wherein it agreed to sell 1,500,000 metric tons of rice to the government until 2010.

The same arrangement will no longer be possible following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) No. 110203 or the Rice Tariffication

Act, which replaced the country’s quantitative restrictions with a general tariff.

The law also liberalized commercial rice importation and barred the government from importing rice through the National Food Authority (NFA). 

Relaxed terms and conditions

Aside from Vietnam, the President also talked with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet about the possible easing of terms and conditions for Philippine firms to import rice from Khemer suppliers.

Last May, Cambodian suppliers exported 2,500 tons of rice to the country. It was the first time Cambodia exported a “significant” amount of the food staple to the Philippines since the passage of RA 110203 in 2019.

Cambodia is aiming to get a 1-percent share of the country’s market of imported rice by 2024.

Marcos and Hun Manet also discussed expanding the Philippine-Cambodia direct flights and enhanced cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges.

The country’s planned additional rice importations come on the heels of the government’s imposition of price caps due to the alleged rampant practice of hoarding by opportunistic traders and rice cartels: P41.00 per kilogram (kg) for regular milled rice and P45 per kg for well-milled rice.

Marcos said the illegal practice has led to soaring rice prices despite the Department of Agriculture (DA), projecting that the country will have a 10.15 million metric tons (MMT) rice supply during the second half of the year.

DA said the rice supply will be sufficient to cover the current rice demand of 7.76 MMT.