By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato

THE Department of Agriculture has just green-lighted the importation of 750,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, following the devastation recent Typhoon Ompong dealt to rice crops in Northern Luzon last week.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters on Tuesday that the 25% broken rice cleared for import will be considered an advance from next year’s importations. Bidding should be done before the end of the year, so that shipments can begin as soon as possible, he said.

“I left it to [the National Food Authority] to decide how to go through the bidding,” Mr. Piñol added. The National Food Aauthority can either go through government-to-government or government-to-private sector bidding.

Rice traders who are hoarding rice should release their stocks before the onslaught of rice imports arrive. “If they thought that they can hold the government hostage, they are wrong,” Mr. Piñol said.

In another announcement made on Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture will not allow 5%-broken rice to reduce the stocks of premium and more expensive rice in the market, Mr. Piñol said.