THE PHILIPPINES imported 3.48 million metric tons (MT) of rice in 2023 as of late December, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

Rice imports in December up to the 28th of the month totaled 387.21 thousand MT, up 29.19% from a year earlier.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said for the entirety of 2023, imports are expected to total 3.65 million MT, or below the 3.8 million MT projected by the US Department of Agriculture.

The DA has said that about 500,000 MT of rice are expected to arrive in December and January as the government seeks to build reserves for the peak of El Niño.

El Niño is expected to intensify between January and May, affecting about 63 provinces with droughts and dry spells, according to the government weather service, known as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration).

The BPI reported that Vietnam remained the Philippines’ top supplier of rice with 84.27% of total imports. Shipments from Vietnam are expected to hit 2.94 million MT.

Thailand supplied 297.2 thousand MT and Myanmar 143.92 thousand MT.

The DA said that 75 thousand MT of rice was set to arrive from India by early January, part of a 295,00 MT rice allocation India granted the Philippines in October.

The Indian government issued the quota for non-basmati white rice to the Philippines. It had earlier banned all exports of non-basmati white rice to stabilize its domestic supply.

Arrivals from India have amounted to 13,758 MT, as of Dec. 28.

Meanwhile, the BPI has issued 824 sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) for December covering the import of about 660.01 thousand MT of rice.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. said he has instructed traders to use up their SPSICs for an additional 1 million MT of rice. The DA has imposed a 30-day deadline for traders to use their permits. — Adrian H. Halili