MANILA Dec 2 Philippine rice output is likely
to grow 4 percent annually over the next three years, falling
short of the rate needed to reach self-sufficiency in the grain
due to a "new normal" of stronger typhoons, a senior farm
official said on Monday.
The Southeast Asian country may need to import as much as 2
million tonnes of rice in 2014, its largest intake in four
years, as it failed to meet growth targets because of two strong
typhoons this year, according to traders and farming experts.
As hopes fade for the Philippines to become self-sufficient
in its national staple before President Benigno Aquino steps
down in 2016, its demand for rice imports is likely to remain
among the largest in the coming years.
Stronger typhoons are the "new normal" and pose a "serious
challenge" to the country's rice production, Agriculture
Undersecretary Dante Delima said at a media briefing.
"We need to review our FSSP (Food Self-Sufficiency
Programme) taking into consideration a new set of parameters,
including the intensity of the typhoons," he said.
The Philippines, the world's largest rice importer in 2010
when it bought a record 2.45 million tonnes, is hit by an
average of about 20 typhoons each year.
Two strong typhoons hit major rice-growing provinces this
year, including Haiyan, which struck the central Philippines on
Nov. 8, killing more than 5,600 people and destroying
infrastructure and crops worth nearly $790 million.
Vietnam, the world's second-biggest rice exporter after
India last year, is traditionally the country's main supplier.
Vietnam competes mainly with Thailand, which is sitting on
record-high stocks, for new Philippine deals.
Delima, who helps Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala
supervise the Aquino administration's rice self-sufficiency
programme, said 4 percent annual growth in rice output is
sustainable over the next three years.
But that is not fast enough to meet the country's growing
requirements, he said. Achieving self-sufficiency is based on a
6 percent annual growth in rice output, he said.
Self-sufficiency could still be possible with massive
government investment in irrigation, which could offset losses
due to typhoons, Delima said.
"Unfortunately, there's also those huge challenges, and we
don't know over the next three years what type of changing
climate we have," said Jim Hancock, a United Nations natural
resources and livelihood specialist at the Food and Agriculture
Organisation in Manila.
(Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Tom Hogue)