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Regional News

Philippine food agency to propose extra 500,000 tons of rice imports

MANILA (Reuters) — The Philippines’ food security agency on Thursday said it would seek approval to import an extra 500,000 tons of rice this year to ensure healthy supply and stable prices in the local market.

The cargoes should arrive in the country in December, the National Food Authority or NFA said.

The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest buyers of rice and usually imports from its Southeast Asian neighbors Vietnam and Thailand. Fresh demand could underpin rice export prices in those countries, which have fallen amid increasing supply.

It has not been decided yet whether any additional purchase would come via another government-to-government deal or through the private sector, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino told reporters. Approval would come from the NFA Council, a panel composed of the government’s economic managers.

For this year, the council has so far approved purchases totaling 1.3 million toes, including the 500,000 tons the NFA has bought under government-to-government deals with Vietnam and Thailand. Private traders have been allowed to import up to 805,200 tons.

The Philippines recently rushed to import rice to stabilize retail prices of the national staple that had steadily risen amid the absence of low-priced NFA supply in the local market.

Higher rice prices have added pressure to Philippine inflation, which accelerated in the first half of the year to the highest in at least five years, hurting the economy to some extent and denting President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity.