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Philippine traders to import 750,150 metric tonnes rice

MANILA: More than a hundred rice traders in the Philippines have applied for permits to import a total of 750,150 tons of the staple grain, mainly from Thailand and Vietnam, based on the latest list of applicants from the state grains procurement agency.

The figure is below the maximum volume of 805,200 tons that private traders are allowed to bring in under an annual country-specific quota scheme covered by a 2014 agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Traders can continue to apply for import permits, but all cargoes must be shipped in by Feb. 28 next year. Traders are seeking to import as much as 326,325 tons from Thailand and 280,375 tons from Vietnam, the world’s second-and third-largest rice suppliers, respectively, the National Food Authority (NFA) list showed.

The Philippines’ rice import requirements are closely being monitored by traders, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam, its main suppliers, where stocks are rising amid thin demand.

Under the NFA’s import guidelines, traders can only ship in up to 293,100 tons each from Thailand and Vietnam, which means some of the applications for Thai rice will be pared back. Applicants are also seeking to import up to 143,450 tons or rice from Pakistan, nearly triple the maximum volume of 50,000 tons allowed by the NFA.

Traders can also buy up to 50,000 tons each from China, top supplier India and Pakistan, up to 15,000 tons from Australia, up to 4,000 tons from El Salvador, and 50,000 tons from any other country. But the NFA’s list showed no applications yet to import from those countries.

The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice buyers, has kept restrictions on the size of imports of the grain in place since 1995, when it joined the WTO, to protect local farmers. The 2014 deal with WTO, which expires next year, provides for minimum market access for rice imports into the Southeast Asian nation by private traders, which are levied with a 35 percent tariff.