GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT (G2G) rice imports are no longer necessary, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said, after Vietnam lifted its restrictions on rice exports.

In a statement, Mr. Dar said he wrote Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on June 24 recommending that the government no longer pursue the plan to import 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, and will rely on private imports instead.

The Philippine International Trading Center (PITC), an arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), was originally tapped to strike a G2G deal with Vietnam, but announced the abandonment of import plans Friday.

In March, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved plans to import 300,000 MT, after Vietnam suspended the signing of new rice export contracts while it assessed its own requirements in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The situation, however, has been properly addressed with the lifting of the rice export ban by Vietnam and the rice import arrivals of around 1.3 million MT as of the third week of June,” Mr. Dar said in the letter to Mr. Lopez.

According to the DA, the Philippines imports between 7% to 14% of its rice requirements, with Vietnam accounting for 90% of that total.

The DA evaluated 10 scenarios for rice supply by the end of the year, with the best-case scenario leading to a year-end stock equivalent to 100 days’ consumption requirements. The worst case was 78 days.

Mr. Dar said he is confident that private-sector imports will be sufficient to meet demand in the last half of the year.

“With the DTI, through the PITC, no longer proceeding with the planned imports, the government will be able to generate P8.5 billion in savings, a sum which can be tapped to support productivity-enhancing activities in agriculture that can assist in ensuring food security for the country,” Mr. Dar said.

The Rice Tariffication Law, or Republic Act 11203, had removed the National Food Authority’s rice import functions and left the international trade in rice to private firms, who are obliged to pay import duties of 35% on Southeast Asian grain. The tariffs generate revenue for the government instead of leaving it with the need to set aside cash for G2G purchases. The tariffs in turn fund government efforts to make domestic rice production more competitive. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave