SENATOR Grace Poe has warned that the recent rice export curb by India could further increase global and local food prices.
Poe said the ban was unfortunate coming at a time when hectares of fields were flooded due to the typhoons and monsoon conditions.
India, the world’s largest rice exporter, announced on July 20 its ban on non-basmati white rice exports to stem domestic inflation.
“Hindi naman natin masisisi ang India sa kanilang desisyon. May obligasyon silang unahin ang kapakanan ng kanilang 1.4 billion na mamamayan,” the chairperson of the Senate committee on economic affairs said.
“Ngunit, may obligasyon rin tayo sa 113 milyon na mga Pilipino. Lalo na sa 3.4 milyon na mga kabataan at mag-aaral na umaasa sa Feeding Program ng gobyerno. Kapag sila ay nagkulang sa timbang, tayo ang may pagkukulang,” she added.
Poe authored Republic Act 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain sa Batang Pilipino Act, which provides nutritious food to Kindergarten to Grade 6 public school students.
The senator said demand for rice will continue among Filipinos, who consume 118.81 kilograms or two sacks of rice each on the average a year “because of the unli-rice programming in our genes.”
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Philippines is only 81.5% rice self-sufficient, which means the rest of the requirement is being imported.
“The reasons for such high import dependence are too many to discuss here. Simply put, our agriculture sector is not blessed with either good geography or good governance,” Poe said.
In 2022, the country imported 3.79 million metric tons (MT) of rice, including 3.16 million MT sourced from Vietnam. The next largest import partners were Myanmar, Pakistan, and Thailand.
From India, the Philippines imported a mere 10,045 MT.
“But this does not exclude us from the collateral impact of their decision. The decline in global supply from the biggest rice exporter is expected to cause a spike in global rice prices because of speculation,” Poe said.
Data showed that non-basmati rice accounts for roughly 81.2% of India’s total rice exports, the category subject to the ban.
“This means that in one fell swoop, India has created a 17.86 million MT shortage in the global rice market. Those who will fill that gap can certainly charge a premium,” Poe said.
The senator pointed out that Vietnam, which supplies more than 90% of the Philippines’ rice imports, already increased its price to $600 per MT compared to the previous $500 per MT.
Poe recalled President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. saying he intends to pursue a rice import deal with India.
“We wish him all the best, especially with the long waiting line. No doubt, the first to bang on India’s doors will be their immediate rice trading partners, such as Bangladesh and Nepal,” she said.
Poe said she looks forward to scrutinizing the 2024 budget that the Department of Agriculture will propose.
“We hope the agriculture budget will not only get bigger, but be spent faster, on the things which our rice farmers need to succeed,” Poe said.