PHILIPPINE rice imports are expected to rise to 3.4 million metric tons (MT) in the July 2022-June 2023 period, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said, upgrading its previous forecast of 3.3 million MT.

“Rice is a highly political crop in the Philippines, and supply sufficiency is very important for the government. Lower-income consumers can subsist even on rice with minimal viand,” the FAS said in a report.

In the nine months to September, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) said its estimate for rice imports was 2.91 million MT.

According to the USDA report, the FAS forecast for milled rice production was also cut to 11.98 million MT from 12.41 million MT over its forecast period due to the damage caused by Typhoon Karding (international name: Noru).

According to the Department of Agriculture, farm damage inflicted by the storm was P3.12 billion so far.

Rice was the most affected crop with losses worth P2.05 billion and the volume of lost production at 134,205 MT, spanning 163,162 hectares.

“Typhoon Noru made a landfall on Sept. 25 and destroyed rice crops ready for harvest in Central Luzon, most especially in Nueva Ecija, the country’s rice granary,” according to the report.

“To compensate for the expected rice supply shortfall, (we) forecast increased rice imports to 3.4 million MT,” it added.

It also cited the need for more imports due to a 3% drop in yields amid rising fertilizer prices.

“The fertilizer price data from the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority shows fertilizer prices have increased significantly, although urea prices have tapered off a bit since May 2032… fertilizer exports to the Philippines have declined, which has pushed rice prices up,” it added.

The agency also estimated rice consumption to hit 15.6 million MT.

The FAS forecast corn imports to come in at 1.7 million MT, higher than its earlier projection of 900,000 MT. It said inbound shipments are expected to have risen after the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 171.

EO 171 extended lower tariffs on corn and other commodities to the end of the year.

“It modifies favorably the market access for corn… the corn minimum access volume for 2022 is still at 216,940 MT. Among feed millers and animal farmers, corn is still the most preferred energy source if available,” the FAS said.

It also projected corn production during its forecast period to decline to 7.9 million MT from 8.3 million MT, also driven by low fertilizer application due to soaring prices.

“The production decline is a combination of area harvested and yield declines,” it added.

Corn feed consumption is expected to increase by 400,000 MT to 7.5 million MT, according to the report.

“Additionally, broiler production is expected to rebound by 2% in 2023, which should nudge corn consumption upward,” it added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson