More rice deals needed — senator


THE PHILIPPINES must seek more rice deals with countries like India and Vietnam since the country’s grain production still needs improvement, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian told a forum at the Senate on Thursday.

“It is important to strive for 98 or even 100% rice sufficiency, but in the meantime, it is important that we have concrete agreements with countries that export rice,” the senator, speaking in mixed English and Filipino, said.

He said that the Philippines still has ways to go in being self-sufficient in its rice production since it imports about 3 million metric tons (MT) a year.

Last Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture said rice prices are expected to stay high until midyear as the agriculture sector reels from the shocks of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Agricultural damage caused by El Niño has risen to P2.63 billion, affecting 54,203 farmers and 53,879 hectares of farmland, based on the agency’s data.

The Bureau of Plant Industry has said Philippine rice imports reached 995,841 as of March 21.

The US Department of Agriculture expects Philippine rice imports to reach 4 million MT this year.

“We should help revive the agriculture sector since due to the extreme heat, it would take time for them to do so,” Mr. Gatchalian said in mixed English and Filipino. “The sector needs to have funding for our farmers to livelihoods and for them to revive their crops.”

In October, India gave the Philippines a quota of 295,000 MT of non-basmati white rice, after imposing restrictions on exporting the grain to ensure the sufficiency of domestic supply.

Vietnam in January agreed to supply 1.5 to 2 million MT of white rice to the Philippines “at a competitive and affordable price” for five years. — John Victor D. Ordoñez