The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) anticipates higher rice imports this year, despite elevated global rice prices. According to Raul Montemayor, the FFF's national manager, rice imports are likely to rise due to insufficient domestic production to meet the growing demand driven by population growth.
Montemayor pointed out that while the Philippines reported a record local rice harvest of slightly over 20 million metric tons (MT) in 2023, it was only a modest improvement compared to the previous year's production of 19.9 million MT. In 2022, local rice production had declined to 19.76 million MT.
The FFF official emphasized that the 2023 record crop merely offset some of the losses incurred in 2022 and would not be sufficient to meet the increasing demand for rice. The Philippines is projected to remain the world's top rice importer, with the United States Department of Agriculture estimating imports to reach 3.8 million MT in the coming year.
Despite being a significant rice importer for years, the Philippines faces additional challenges due to the potential impact of El Niño drought on rice production. While increased rice imports might be necessary, there is also an opportunity for the government to enhance rice agricultural productivity to mitigate the effects of rising global prices and potential production disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions.
In conclusion, the FFF expects higher rice imports in response to growing domestic demand and potential production challenges, emphasizing the need for strategic management of imports and efforts to boost domestic rice production.