The Philippines will have to rely on more corn and rice imports this year due to possible lower production.
This was hinted by Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap over the weekend in an ambush interview with newsmen.
Replying to questions about additional corn and rice importations for this year, Yap admitted that that the DA is prepared to consider requests for additional importations for corn and rice in the face of possible lower corn production this year due to the shifting of some farmers last year from corn to rice due to the rice crisis.
Likewise, Yap pointed out that rice and corn production is also constrained due to the high cost of fertilizers, with farmers opting not to use costly fertilizers — which has resulted in lower rice and corn yields.
Thus, depending on the price movement of fertilizers this year, rice and corn production may again be affected.
Fertilizer prices have gone down as crude oil prices have dropped from the highs of over $100 a barrel due to a global economic slowdown.
However, there has been a renewed uptick in crude prices following the renewed conflict between Israel and Palestine.
After managing last year to avoid corn importations, the DA was forced to agree to allow an “initial” importation of 200,000 metric tons of corn for use by hog and poultry growers and feed millers.
Yap admitted to reporters that the 200,000 MT to be imported is just an “initial” amount and that the DA would assess any future need to allow more corn importations.
Local corn production last year had been able to achieve some parity with domestic demand which had dropped due to the mortality experienced by the hog industry in 2007.
The high price of imported corn last year also served as a disincentive for corn importations.
However, by late last year, the recovery of the hog industry and competing demand from the poultry and feedmilling sectors caused local corn prices to hit P26 per kilo, prompting the hog, poultry and feedmilling sector to request for the immediate corn importations.
Following the DA’s go signal to import 200,000 MT of corn, local corn prices have started coming down and is now at P21 per kilo, according to hog farmers.
According to Yap, the 200,000 MT of corn to be imported by the National Food Authority (NFA) would arrive no later than May this year.
On rice imports, Yap disclosed that the DA has already reached agreement with government rice suppliers on a mechanism to import additional rice this year as demand requires.
Yap would not elaborate on the agreement, except to insist that “government suppliers are prepared.”
It had earlier been reported that the DA, through the NFA, would import some 1.5 million metric tons of rice this year even as the DA projects palay production of 17.81 MMT this year.
Yap, however, remains hopeful that rice prices this year would remain relatively stable although he was quick to point out that there would be some market fluctuations.
He does not foresee rice prices though again exceeding the P45 to P60 per kilo mark as occurred during the height of the rice crisis last year.
Yap assured that the NFA has adequate “food security” stock of rice amounting to 700,000 MT for this year.–Marianne V. Go, Philippine Star