Feb 042013

A good summary of the rice and palay situation of the country in 2012 is aptly conveyed by our reader, Manuel Bondad, in the following letter he sent recently. Please read on.

“Reports that the 2012 palay production reached 18 million metric tons (MMT) is good news. For the first time, the highest ever attained output of 16.8 MMT in 2008 was bested as well.

“The milled rice equivalent of the record palay tonnage is sufficient to cope with the country’s annual consumption of 10.9 MMT and a 21-day buffer stock based on the government’s assumed per capita consumption of two sacks and 15 kilos a year.

“The feat may allay critics’ unwavering stand that the road to rice self-sufficiency is a dream never to be attained in our lifetime. On this score, the impact of population growth on rice self-sufficiency was not considered by the critics.

“A perusal of the Food and Agriculture (FAO) published statistics shows that while the hike in combined population of the four most populated countries outside the Philippines in the ASEAN, i.e., Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, reached 9.8 percent in 2010 from 2001, the country’s growth of 18 percent – the highest – when halved to nine percent could have made the country self-sufficient with consumption correspondingly reduced to 10 MMT against the milled rice equivalent of 11.5 MMT of the 2012 palay output of 18 MMT.

“On palay productivity, the Philippine yield per hectare of 3.62 tons, or equivalent to 80 cavans in 2010 from 70 cavans in 2001, bested Thailand’s stationary 62 cavans and 64 cavans in 2001 and 2010, respectively. Moreover Thailand’s output of 32 MMT, or twice the Philippine production, is on account of palay areas 2.5 times the Philippines’ 4.3 million hectares.

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“Vietnam’s expanded rice output (40 MMT) is a classic case, what with a record 118 cavans per hectare attained with palay land area of 7.5 million hectares practically remaining constant from 2001 to 2010.

“Indonesia, with a 240-million population in 2010, is not far behind with 111 cavans, and boosted by 1.8 million hectares more or 15 percent from 2001, without sacrificing yields.

Bad news

“The not so good news is based on Bureau of Statistics (BAS) data for the first three quarters of 2012 (fourth quarter not yet available).

“Though harvests from 2008 peak tonnage improved by 8.5 percent, the share of irrigated palay output (8.867 MMT) for the period dropped to 77 percent from 78.5 percent in 2008.

“It is not enough that harvests from irrigated lands increased (by 6.7 percent), compared to a faster rate of 15 percent from rain-fed areas. Increased remarkable yields from irrigated lands could sustain our rice production with dwindling limited land areas suitable to the staple.

“Emerging rice producers in the ASEAN have increased cultivated areas by 26 percent to 42 percent accompanied by improved yields, while the Philippines registered a seven percent hike in cultivated areas with modest yields.

“Climate change or droughts are realities we must contend with. How much has the government spent for irrigation from 2001 to the present? We do not have the luxury of the Mekong waters!

“The bad news is that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has filed “smuggling” cases for the “illegal rice shipment” of 78,000 bags (3,900 MT) from Vietnam that arrived in Legazpi City in early September 2012 on board the MV Minh Tuan 68.

Not acceptable

“Why is this bad news, and in fact, not acceptable?

“First, the 3,900MT shipment arrived September or three months after the NFA Rice Council imposed a June 30 deadline for imports to arrive preparatory for the lean months or the typhoon season. Legazpi from Vietnam is only a week’s sailing time, yet the vessel arrived in September.

Second, a review of published international statistics from Vietnam, shows rice exports to the Philippines to have reached 500,000 MT in the first semester 2012, which level corresponds to the NFA Council-approved 40 percent duty free importation from all country sources for year 2012 awarded in March 2012 for cooperatives and traders (at 190,000 tons each), and the NFA (at 120,000 tons).

“We have surpassed the 2012 Council ceiling since an additional 500,000 MT estimated at P9 billion were deemed exported to the Philippines in the second half of 2012.

Validation needed

“Government should validate the statistics from Vietnam. The “Legazpi” rice shipment worth “P96.5 million” appears to be a drop in the bucket compared to “unregistered imports” by the Philippines (USDA GAIN Report, 3/2/2012).

“If the Vietnam government statistics are reliable, which we think they are, our imports from Vietnam alone for 2012 could reach $430 million (P18 billion), of which amount “only”P2 billion or 11 percent is attributed to the NFA’s procurement, and the rest presumably financed by the private sector.

“With the size of the Minh Tuan 68, it is a puzzle since the 138 voyages needed to load the tonnage were unreported by media in the various ports of entries! Nobody noticed. Was it just manna from heaven? This “extra” rice importation is twice Calabarzon’s palay annual output.

“BOC’s Biazon should rush the “review of all rice importations” to be incorporated in the BAS’s computation of the country’s per capita consumption (and make it) indispensable in forecasting rice self-sufficiency levels for 2013 and beyond.

“Why the unexplained drop from 128 kilos per capita in 2008 to 120 in 2009, and 115 kilos in 2010 and 2011 respectively? The statistics appear to be inconsistent with those of other comparable ASEAN neighbors.”

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