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.

Removing the quantitative restrictions on purchasing the grain has been a hot trade issue in the Philippines, with the government pushing to keep the high tariffs to protect local farmers despite the country’s commitment to support the removal of global trade barriers.

Recent negotiations in Geneva between the Philippines and concerned countries were successful and a formal approval by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the extension of import restrictions could come as early as July, the secretary said.

The National Food Authority (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./.