By Claire-Ann M. C. Feliciano, Reporter

Rice stocks sufficient to offset any impact from ‘Ruby’ -- Alcala

Posted on December 09, 2014

THE AGENCY responsible for procuring grain has assured that rice stocks will be sufficient for the remainder of 2014 despite any damage to farms resulting from typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit).

“The supply of rice we have right now is more than enough and so far, there is no need to import right after the typhoon,” Renan B. Dalisay, National Food Authority (NFA) administrator, said in phone interview yesterday.

He clarified, however, that the country is still poised to import an initial 600,000 metric tons (MT) of rice for 2015 to boost its buffer stocks for the lean months of June to August.

BusinessWorld reported last month that the tender process for the additional supply would start by January, ensuring the arrival of shipments by June, in time for the lean period.

Mr. Dalisay noted however that the NFA Council has yet to give a go signal for an auction to procure the imports.

The NFA Council, which includes the Agriculture Secretary, makes import recommendations to the President, who then makes the final decision.

The Philippines imported around 1.8 million tons of rice over the last 11 months, the biggest amount in four years -- including 1.5 million tons this year and 300,000 tons representing last year’s residual imports -- to replenish thinning stockpiles and bring down local retail prices.

The NFA is still authorized to import another 500,000 MT of rice this year, if need arises depending on supply conditions and calamities, the possible onset of El Niño, and output in the fourth quarter.

In a related development, Agriculture officials said yesterday that “minimal damage and losses to the farm and fisheries sector” are expected following the typhoon, which entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility over the weekend.

Data from the agency showed that reported farm damage due to typhoon Ruby was at P1.02 billion -- involving 55,850 hectares of farmland.

The main affected areas have been identified as Bicol, Western and Eastern Visayas.

Of the total, rice accounted for the largest production loss amounting to P840.5 million, equivalent to 48,054 MT.

Corn had P92.5 million worth of losses, while fisheries had P48.22 million.

The remaining consists of production losses in high value crops and livestock; as well as damage to infrastructure and equipment.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, in a statement, assured that the typhoon’s damage is expected not to be in the same class as that dealt out by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013.

Mr. Alcala said the damage was worse last year since typhoon Yolanda hit before farmers could harvest their crops.

Mr. Alcala said this time, the farmers were able to harvest mature crops before the typhoon made landfall, while fishing communities were able to bring their boats to safe places.

“What we can [also] assure the public is that although Ruby is also a destructive typhoon, we are ready to roll out further assistance, apart from what had already been prepositioned,” Mr. Alcala said.

The Agriculture department prepositioned some 77,479 bags of rice and 17,554 of corn in anticipation of possible supply disruptions due to the typhoon.

The top sources of fruits and vegetables -- like Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya -- are not expected to be severely affected by the typhoon, Mr. Alcala added.

The poultry sector, on the other hand, may see negative effects but not as worse as the damage due to typhoon Glenda (international name: Rammasun).

“Looking at its trajectory, typhoon Ruby will not affect poultry production areas,” Mr. Alcala said.

“As of now, our supply of chicken is stable and the SRP (suggested retail price) has not changed, so we hope we can maintain this. We will also facilitate in balancing the supply,” he added.