A DISCREPANCY between rice import and inventory data leaves some 800,000 metric tons of the staple grain unaccounted for, suggesting that domestic rice production may have been overstated, a farmers’ group said.

“The discrepancy of about 800,000 metric tons (MT), equivalent to about 22 days’ supply, is very significant,” Raul Q. Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said in a statement on Thursday.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a national rice inventory of 1.64 million MT in early April, sufficient for 44 days of consumption.

The FFF said that the actual stock levels, when factoring in the Jan. 1 starting inventory, domestic rice output, and import arrivals in the first quarter should be about 2.46 million MT.

“If the PSA data are correct, it means that our palay output has been overstated all along,” Mr. Montemayor added.

“They also imply that our rice supply will tighten in the coming months, especially since El Niño’s impact on the second quarter harvest is expected to be more serious,” he said.

According to a PSA report, palay or unmilled rice production dropped 2% to 4.69 million MT during the first quarter due to El Niño.

“Inexplicably however, rainfed areas appear to have been less affected than irrigated farms despite the lack of rain. The percentage reduction in output and yield in irrigated areas was about double that in areas dependent on rainfall,” he added.

On average yields dropped 1.8%, while harvested area decreased by only 0.13% during the period.

The FFF further called on the PSA to review its data gathering methods and harmonize them with the practices of the Department of Agriculture. — Adrian H. Halili