MANILA - The government said it would soon import rice to boost its stocks ahead of the lean harvest season, and will buy from private suppliers, not governments, in a bid to increase competitiveness and transparency.
The National Food Authority Council did not specify an amount, but demand from the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice importers, could underpin prices in its main suppliers and major exporters Thailand and Vietnam.
The NFA had been seeking the council's approval to import as much as 250,000 tons under government-to-government schemes with Vietnam and Thailand. The committee which decides on the amount to be imported meets on Thursday.
"The NFA will shift from government to government importation to government to private importation, a move that is more competitive, less corrupt and transparent," the NFA Council said in a statement.
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who chairs the NFA Council, said the shift away from governments would ensure accountability. Evasco recently accused some NFA officials of "making a cash cow out of government-led rice importations". The NFA management has denied any wrongdoing.
Rice inventories in the Philippines are running low, with government stockpiles shrinking to the least in more than three years in April, just enough to cover 10 days of national requirements.
To ensure supply availability throughout the year, especially during the typhoon season in the last quarter, the council said private traders can also import up to 805,000 tonnes under an annual quota scheme.