The Philippine Government has decided to import an additional 200 tonnes of rice from Vietnam in a bid to stabilize stockpiles of the National Food Authority (NFA), according to a senior government official.

Francis Pangilinan, assistant to the President on food security and agriculture modernization, said the decision came after the June 26 working session between the President Benigno Aquino and several high-ranking cabinet members.

The President and officials discussed the sudden hike in prices of a number of essential goods, including rice, planning to buy 800,000 tonnes of rice abroad to supplement the national reserves.

President Aquino ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to work together with the Justice Ministry to investigate reports on acts of speculation in food.

The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice buyers, expects to keep import restrictions in place until 2017 after winning international support to maintain the curbs, said Agriculture Secretary Processo J. Alcala on June 23.

This means the government will continue imposing a 40 percent duty on rice shipments for a yearly “minimum access volume” of 350,000 tonnes, most of which are from Vietnam, one of the world’s top rice exporters.

The NFA has bought a total of 1.3 million tonnes of Vietnamese rice tariff free, its biggest purchase since 2010, to boost dwindling stockpiles and curb local hike prices.-VNA