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NFA: PH to import 295,000 MT Indian non-basmati rice this month

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — The Philippines will import at least 295,000 metric tons (MT) of non-basmati white rice from India this December, as it seeks alternatives to traditional rice-exporting countries Thailand and Vietnam amid rising grain prices, the head of the National Food Authority (NFA) told lawmakers on Wednesday.

NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco told the House Committee on Agriculture that the arrangement will be “government-to-private” as the NFA’s mandate no longer allows it to import the grain.

“Our recommendation to keep Vietnam and Thailand prices in check is to seek alternative supply,” Bioco said.

“India banned the export of non-basmati rice but they allowed ‘G-to-G’ (government-to-government) transaction for humanitarian purposes," he added. «And they allowed us 295,000 metric tons of white rice to be exempted from the bond.»

The NFA official wants importers to avail of that arrangement “so we will be able to expand our traditional sources of supply not just from Vietnam and Thailand but also India.”

“The talks are already ongoing," he said. «We are going to have initial shipments from India within this month of December.»

The agency was supposed to boost the country’s buffer stock by buying palay from local farmers – indirectly stabilizing and influencing domestic prices – but Bioco flagged that farm gate prices have risen to a level higher than the NFA’s programmed buying price.

Consequently, the NFA has so far used only ₱1.2 billion out of the ₱7 billion subsidy from the national government – something that lawmakers frowned upon.

In 2022, the Commission on Audit (COA) found the NFA falling short of performing its mandate of maintaining a national rice buffer stock requirement of 300,000 metric tons at any given time, partly due to higher farm gate prices and competition from private traders who offer to buy the grain at a price better than what the agency quoted.

Bioco pointed out that the solution is to expand supply sourced from elsewhere, effectively driving grain prices down.

“Palay prices have shot up to as much as ₱30, and we cannot be party to that," he said. «Inflation cannot be driven by government.