Rice, sugar supply stable till yearend

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    Despite the pandemic, rice and sugar production will be enough for the entire population but fishery products would need be augmented by imports.

    The Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday appealed to rice importers and traders “out of patriotism” to temporarily stop, if not lessen, the importation of rice during this harvest season and instead support the country’s farmers by buying their produce.

    DA Secretary William Dar, in a briefing, said at least two million metric tons (MT) of imported rice have arrived in the country and some 200,000 to 300,000 tons more are expected to arrive by December.

    The arrival of imports during the harvest season that peaks next month will further bring down the prices of palay.

    Dar said he supports a proposal of Magsasaka partylist Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat to make it mandatory for the Department of Social Welfare and Development to purchase rice that they distribute to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries and include in the relief packs from the National Food Authority (NFA).

    NFA also continues to buy harvested palay.

    Upgraded. Sugar crop year is estimated to hit 2.19 million metric tons MT this crop year.

    The DA also assured in all of its simulations, rice supply will be sufficient by yearend with an inventory level that is good for 92 to 97 days.

    Sugar forecast upgraded

    Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revised its estimates upward for the Philippines’ raw sugar production for crop year 2020-2021.

    Sugar crop year in the Philippines starts in September and ends in August of the following year.

    From the previous estimate of 2 million metric tons (MT), the agency said production for the period may hit 2.19 million MT due to the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s intensified hybrid seeds and extension programs focusing on boosting productivity through better farm management practices.

    This year’s updated projection is two percent higher than the 2.15 million MT recorded in the previous crop year.

    If this crop year’s estimate is also achieved, the country would record a three-consecutive production improvement.

    The country booked 2.07 million MT for crop year 2018-2019.

    However, the USDA warned La Niña could moderately lower the production outlook for the current crop year as it may result in higher tonnage of sugar canes but lower in sugar content.

    The report maintained total refined sugar consumption for the current crop year is expected to increase slightly to 2.35 million MT from the previous 2.3 million MT as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, with higher demand from industrial and institutional users including hotels, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants.

    No imports are expected as substantial ending stocks of refined sugar accumulated last crop year can fulfill the country’s sugar export requirements to the United States.
    Fish imports

    Dar said he has asked the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to augment the guidelines on the auction system to be implemented on the importation of galunggong and tilapia this quarter.

    The DA expects a shortage of these fish products due to the impact of the pandemic and the Taal Volcano eruption at the start of the year to the aquaculture industry aside from the seasonal demand and the upcoming closed fishing season in some areas.

    Based on DA’s latest simulations, supply of galunggong will hit 53,925 MT against a demand of 105,690 MT which brings a deficit of 51,765 MT by year-end while tilapia supply is expected to reach 102,624 MT compared to a demand of 114,660 MT resulting in a deficit of 12,036 MT at the end of 2020. ( J. Montemayor and J. Macapagal)