THE NATIONAL FOOD AUTHORITY (NFA) purchased 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice in a tender yesterday from suppliers in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, as it rushed to boost thinning state stockpiles.

Philippines buys 250,000 tons of rice to boost stockpiles
Dock workers unload sacks of rice from Vietnam — totaling some 10,800 metric tons — from the cargo ship Vinh Phuoc at the Port of Tabaco, Albay, southeast of Metro Manila, in this July 5, 2007 file photograph. — AFP

Fifteen international rice exporters out of the 18 that sent representatives to the pre-bidding conference participated in NFA’s auction yesterday.

Of these, four from Vietnam — Tan Long Group Joint Stock Co., Hiep Loi Foods JSC, Gia International Corp. and Vietnam Southern Food Corp. (Vinafood II) — offered bids of $409- 425.90 per metric ton (/MT) for lots totaling some 175,000 MT.

Singapore’s Olam International Ltd. offered $413.81/MT for 50,000 MT, while Thailand’s Capital Cereals Company Ltd. offered $431.70/MT for 25,000 MT.

All winning bids fell below the NFA’s $451.08/MT ceiling price.

“We’d like to remind you that this will be subjected to post-qualification review,” Tomas R. Escarez, NFA deputy administrator for Marketing Operations and chairman of the agency’s Special Bids and Awards Committee said during the conference.

One firm that bid — Singson (HK) Ltd. — failed to submit complete documents.

The company has asked NFA’s Bids and Awards Committee to allow it to comply before Aug. 3, when the supply contracts are scheduled to be awarded to winning bidders.

“We’ll give them a chance… That’s the process. The decision will in no way affect the calendar of activities to the notice of award to the notice of receipt,” Mr. Escarez added.

The shipments are expected to arrive in tranches during the lean month: 120,000 MT until August and the remaining 130,000 MT by September.

The NFA is required to maintain a minimum 30-day buffer stock during the country’s lean harvest season from July to September.

Unlike in previous episodes of thin state stockpiles when local retail prices were under pressure, the Philippines — one of the world’s biggest rice importers — has managed to keep the cost of these staple food stable, thanks to still abundant supply held in private sector warehouses.

In an effort to boost domestic supply further, the NFA has said it will allow local private traders to bring in up to 805,200 MT under an annual quota scheme.

Those shipments should arrive between December and February next year, the agency has said. — Janina C. Lim and Reuters