Philippines looks to broaden range of rice suppliers
MANILA, April 14 (Reuters) - The Philippines' state grains procurement agency said on Tuesday that it would look to import rice from a broader range of countries including Pakistan, India and Myanmar, as it tries to diversify its supplies of the staple food.
One of the world's biggest rice importers, the Philippines usually buys from key producers Vietnam and Thailand.
But with a longer list of possible suppliers, the nation could keep a lid on the cost of purchases even if emergencies such as typhoons or other natural disasters hit agriculture at home.
Renan Dalisay, administrator at the National Food Authority (NFA), said he had coordinated with the embassies of Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Myanmar in Manila, encouraging the countries to enter into a so-called Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Philippines for rice supply.
The MOA would allow those countries to participate in rice import tenders that the NFA issues from time to time, similar to agreements the Philippines has with Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, he said.
Vietnam and Thailand recently won 500,000-tonne supply deals with the NFA, and hope to get more contracts as they struggle to offload some of their stocks.
Dalisay issued the statement after Pakistan, the world's No.4 rice exporter, approached the Philippines for a 50,000-tonne supply deal. A delegation from the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan was in Manila recently to explore deals, he said.
Dalisay said Pakistan could sell as much as 50,000 tonnes to the Philippines through the Minimum Access Volume scheme under which local traders are allowed to import an annual volume of up to 755,200 tonnes with a 35-percent tariff. That scheme covers private purchases and is separate from the state-buying seen in NFA tenders.
But the NFA Council has yet to open the MAV window this year, with local media reporting the government is looking into the possibility of removing tariffs on rice imports.
Other countries that can also sell rice to the Philippines under the MAV scheme include China, India, Australia, and El Salvador.
The Philippines imported a total of around 1.7 million tonnes of rice in 2014, the most in four years. It may buy 1.6 million tonnes this year, according to a forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture. (Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Joseph Radford)
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