In a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Philippines is anticipated to maintain its position as the world's leading rice importer for the year 2024. The surge in local rice prices, reaching a 14-year high, has contributed to this projection.
The USDA's Economic Research Service outlined an estimate of 3.8 million metric tons (MT) of rice imports for the Philippines in 2024. This comes after the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) reported an intake of 3.22 million MT from January 1 to December 22, 2023.
According to the report, the Philippines is expected to import a record 3.8 million tons this year, surpassing other major importers like China, Indonesia, the European Union, Nigeria, and Iraq. The country has already imported 56,090.63 MT as of January 11, primarily from Vietnam, which continues to be a significant source of rice imports.
Despite China's large population of 1.409 billion, it is projected to import 2.8 million MT, trailing behind the Philippines. Following them are Indonesia with 2.5 million MT, the European Union with 2.4 million MT, Nigeria with 2.1 million MT, and Iraq with 2.0 million MT.
The global rice trade is expected to reach 5.22 million MT in 2024, showing a slight decrease from 52.4 million MT in 2023. This decline is attributed to export bans implemented by India between 2022 and 2023. The report highlights those countries like Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, North Korea, Singapore, Tanzania, Togo, and Vietnam are major contributors to the projected decrease in global rice imports this year.
The USDA report coincides with a notable increase in rice prices in the Philippines. Rice inflation, the rate of cost increase, reached a 14-year high of 19.6% in December 2023, marking the fastest rate since March 2009's 22.9%.
Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. emphasized the need for substantial investment in the rice sector, citing a required investment of at least P1.2 trillion over the next three years. This investment would primarily focus on irrigating 1.2 million hectares of farmland. Secretary Laurel stressed the importance of moving beyond small and piecemeal projects, advocating for more significant, impactful initiatives to address the nation's agricultural challenges.