THE PHILIPPINES imported 1.18 million metric tons (MT) of rice as of April 4, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) reported.

The BPI said rice imports in April so far amounted to 23,539.92 MT.

As of the first quarter, shipments had totaled 1.15 million MT, up 43.6% from a year earlier.

The BPI reported that Vietnam remained the country’s top supplier of rice as of early April, accounting for 62.4% of all imports in the year to date, or 734,583.07 MT.

In January, the Philippines and Vietnam signed an agreement giving the Philippines a quota of 1.5 million to 2 million MT of rice annually for five years.

Thailand supplied 251,738.43 MT during the period, or 21.4% of the total, followed by Pakistan with 124,038.5 MT, or 10.5%.

Rounding out the top five were Myanmar and China which shipped 58,080 MT and 4,680 MT of rice, respectively.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that Philippine rice imports will increase to 4 million MT this year. The estimate, if borne out, would be 11.7% higher than the 3.58 million MT imported in 2023.

However, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said that the imports are unlikely to hit USDA forecast levels due to better-than-expected domestic production. The DA is targeting a palay (unmilled rice) harvest of above 20 million MT.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. said that the USDA import estimate was a “worst-case scenario” should domestic rice output be severely affected by El Niño. — Adrian H. Halili