THE national rice inventory was estimated at 2.625 million metric tons (MMT) on July 1, up 31.9% from a year earlier, and also up 1% month-on-month, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

The estimate was contained in the PSA’s Rice and Corn Inventory report, and is sufficient for about 82 days based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT.

Some 38.4% of the rice inventory was held by households, 41.9% by commercial warehouses, and 19.7% by the National Food Authority (NFA). The PSA did not specify how much of total inventory accounted for by imported rice.

The Rice Tariffication Law, which opened up rice imports to private firms who are levied 35% on Southeast Asian grain, was implemented on March 5.

This also shifted the NFA’s mission to procuring palay, or unmilled rice, from domestic farmers. From January to August, the agency was able to buy 5.77 million bags, with 26,036 bags bought in the first week of August.

Inventory held by households and commercial warehouses increased 1.6% and 16.4% year-on-year, respectively, while NFA stocks surged 869.8% from a year earlier.

The drawdown in NFA stocks was a key factor in last year’s inflation crisis, leaving poor households to buy their grain from commercial traders. In poor countries food makes up a disproportionate amount of the food basket, and the high prices paid for rice and the potential for unrest galvanized the government into passing the Rice Tariffication Law as an inflation-easing measure.

On a month-on-month basis, household and NFA stocks declined 3.9% and 6.2%, respectively, while commercial warehouse inventory increased 10.2%.

The corn inventory was 822,700 MT, up 71.1% year-on-year, but down 4.3% from a month earlier.

Commercial warehouses held 92.6% of the total, while household stocks accounted for 7.4%. NFA corn holdings were zero for the period.

Year-on-year, households and commercial warehouse stocks rose 1.5% and 81.1%, respectively.

Month=-on-month, their holdings fell 23.6% and 2.3%, respectively. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang