Thailand to make a strong bid as Philippine rice imports set to increase

SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 2024

Minister of Commerce Phumtham Wechayachai has instructed Thai officials to work on expanding the market for Thai rice as the Philippines is expected to import up to 4.1 million tons.

Phumtham, who is also a deputy prime minister, revealed that he had assigned the Department of Trade Promotion and commercial attaches stationed worldwide to explore trade opportunities for Thai entrepreneurs. Recently, they received a report from the commercial attache in the Philippines regarding the opportunity to export Thai rice following increased demand in 2024 due to lower domestic production, leading to insufficient supply to meet local demand.

The commercial attache confirmed that the Foreign Agricultural Service under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had stated that in 2024 Philippine rice imports would exceed previous estimates.

The Philippines is expected to import 4.1 million metric tons of rice this year, up by 200,000 tons or 5.1% from the February 2024 estimate of 3.9 million tons. This increase is attributed to lower local paddy rice production. If this forecast holds, the Philippines will increase rice imports by nearly 14% from 3.6 million tons in 2023, making it the world's largest rice importer, followed by Indonesia, China, and the European Union.

The USDA has revised down its estimate of the Philippines' rice production for this year to 12.3 million metric tons, down from the previous estimate of 12.5 million tons. This is contrary to the global trend of increasing rice production to 515.4 million tons, mainly due to the expectation of large-scale cultivation in India.

The Philippines is a major market for rice, with an average annual consumption of around 16 million tons. However, domestic production stands at around 12 million tons, resulting in the need to import over 3 million tons. The country also faces food security risks due to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, as well as technology and agricultural labour shortages. The recent impact of El Niño has further reduced rice production. The Philippine government is, therefore, seeking various measures to ensure adequate rice supply and estimates the need to import up to 4.1 million tons.

Currently, the Philippines is one of Thailand's key rice markets. In 2023, Philippine rice imports from Thailand totalled 342,000 tons, accounting for 9.46% of imports, well behind 2.97 million tons from Vietnam, representing 82.23% of imports, and 156,000 tons from Myanmar, accounting for 4.33%.

"The Department of Foreign Trade and commercial attaches in the Philippines have been instructed to promote Thai rice sales to the Philippines due to competitive pricing and the higher quality of Thai rice. Additionally, efforts are underway to accelerate the development of rice varieties, especially soft rice varieties desired by the Philippines, which would help Thailand regain market share,” Phumtham said.