RICE IMPORTS in 2019 rose nearly 60% to 2.245 million metric tons (MT), according to initial estimates by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), whose estimate is based on imports authorized under its regime of sanitary permits.

Imports in January and February — prior to the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law — totaled 418,724.44 MT.

Over the rest of the year, under the new rice tariffication rules which liberalized imports, import volumes totaled 1.826 million MT, according to the bureau’s initial data. It is awaiting further reports from regional offices which could bring the total higher.

Imports were from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, China, India, Spain and Italy. Some 1.813 million MT was shipped in from Vietnam.

In 2018 rice imports totaled 1.404 million MT.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearances (SPSICs) issued in 2019 numbered 4,513 of which 4,069 were issued after the law took effect, against 1,705 in 2018.

The Rice Tariffication Law came into force in March, removing restrictions on rice imports as long as they paid a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain.

Asked for his import projection this year, Rolando T. Dy, executive director of Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific, said, “this will depend on the interaction between running inventory level and production, while monthly demand is almost the same over the year, February to April is low peak harvest and October to December is high peak,” indicating that imports may come in between June and September. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang