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PH’s billion-dollar rice imports no ‘joke’

08:48 PM November 19, 2012

This is in reference to the news story “Arroyo still butt of jokes by Aquino in Laos” (Inquirer, 6/11/12).

In  Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a rice self-sufficient kingdom, President Aquino observed that rice procured in the past, part of the excessive importation from abroad, is now rotting in warehouses. Why? It is significant that President Aquino made the “addition and subtraction” remarks before the Filipino community in Vientianne on the sidelines of the Ninth Asean-Europe Summit (ASEM9).

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According to UN’s Faostat (Food and Agriculture Organization Statistics), rice was the Philippines’ number one import among the Top 20 agriculture commodities, averaging 2.2 million tons yearly from 2008 to 2010. Compare this to Indonesia’s less than half-a-million tons for the same period. Indonesia’s population at 237 million is three times bigger than the Philippines’ 95 million, and yet our rice imports were  five times more than Indonesia’s. And we doubled our imports to “2.5 million metric tons of rice for a 1.3-million shortage,” added Mr. Aquino. Why?

Based on the UN agency’s worldwide trade data, our country’s rice imports translated to $630/ton in 2010, $591/ton in 2009 and $805/ton in 2008, or an average of $675/ton compared to Indonesia’s $464. The price difference ranged from 20 percent to 80 percent, and averaged $211/ton or 45 percent higher than Indonesia’s unit values.

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That’s not funny!

In absolute amounts, the excess unit valuation translates to $1.4 billion more from 2008 to 2010. Indonesia’s rice imports reached only a shade over half-a-billion dollars against the Philippines’ $4.5 billion for the same period. That’s no joke!

—MANUEL Q. BONDAD,

[email protected]

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