THE PHILIPPINES imported 1.6 million metric tons (MT) of rice as of early May, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) reported.

April shipments fell 19.5% year on year to 416,026 MT.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects Philippine rice imports of 3.9 million MT this year, downgrading its initial 4.1 million MT estimate.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. added that the USDA’s projection is a “worst-case scenario” should domestic production fail to meet demand.

The BPI reported that Vietnam remained the Philippines’ top supplier of rice, accounting for 76.3% of imports with 1.12 MT.

In January, Vietnam agreed to supply the Philippines with 1.5 million to 2 million MT of rice annually for five years.

Thailand supplied 271,037 MT during the period, or 16.9% of all shipments, while Pakistan provided 136,124 MT.

Rounding out the top five sources were Myanmar and China which accounted for 62,480 MT and 5,200 MT of rice imports, respectively.

Output of palay, or unmilled rice, fell 2% during the first quarter to 4.69 million MT, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) downgraded its palay target to 20.4 million MT this year, citing the impact of El Niño on domestic production. Its initial target had been 20.8 million MT, when it had hoped to exceed the 20.06 million MT registered in 2023.

Agricultural damage caused by El Niño was estimated at P5.9 billion with rice and corn as the most affected crops, the DA said.

 Losses to the rice crop were valued at P3.14 billion, with volume lost at 129,350 MT. — Adrian H. Halili