The Filipino Government will allow private rice traders to import up to 163,000 tonnes of the grain this year, nearly two-thirds of which can come from Thailand.

Rice importation by the private sector is allowed every year in line with the country's commitment to the World Trade Organisation, said Dennis Arpia, senior executive assistant at the National Food Authority (NFA).

He said each rice importer is able to import as many as 25,000 tonnes from India and China and 15,000 tonnes from Thailand under the country specific quota (CSQ) programme. All the imports, however, are subject to a 40 percent tariff.

As the world’s biggest rice importer in 2010 with a record 2.45 million tonnes, the Philippines is expected to buy 2 million tonnes of rice this year, following the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan late last year.

Last December, the NFA signed an Inter-Governmental agreement to buy 500,000 tonnes of rice from Vietnam.

In a contrasting move, Indonesia plans not to import rice this year due to its favourable weather conditions helping domestic producers.

Indonesian Minister of Agriculture Suswono said the 2014 rice output is forecast to rise to over 76.5 million tonnes from 70.8 million tonnes recorded last year, while up to 2 million tonnes of rice remains in stock.
Meanwhile, the annual demand for the staple averages at 34 million tonnes./.