MANILA - The Philippines is unlikely to meet its goal of becoming self-sufficient in rice by the end of 2013 because of poor farm infrastructure and high production costs, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist said on Tuesday.
A record purchase of 2.45 million tonnes in 2010 by the Southeast Asian country had made it the world's biggest buyer at the time and helped push up global rice prices.
The country, now one of the world's major rice buyers, has since been trying to cut imports, hoping that a record output next year will help it hit the self-sufficiency target.
But ADB economist Giap Minh Bui does not see this happening.
"The target will not be accomplished," said Giap Minh Bui, a natural resources and agriculture economist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department. "It is the lack of productive infrastructure that are in operation."
"Resource costs for rice production seem much higher than neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia," he said during an online discussion on food security and rising grains prices organised by Manila-based ADB.
The Philippines, which usually buys most of its rice needs from No. 2 seller Vietnam and small quantities from largest exporter Thailand, is limiting imports this year to 500,000 tonnes, from 860,000 tonnes last year, despite recent crop damages due to monsoon rains.
The government is now spending large sums to improve irrigation and farm facilities as it aims to produce a record 20 million tonnes of unmilled rice in 2013, up from a projected 17.8 million tonnes this year, and further reduce imports.
Global rice prices are expected to remain steady over coming years, and Southeast Asian rice producers will play a key role in the stability of the market and meeting growing demand, the ADB said in a report released recently.
Benchmark 100 percent B grade Thai white rice was at $600 per tonne last week, up from the previous week's $590, while 5 percent broken grade was at $585 per tonne, up from $580 the previous week.
In 2008, the benchmark price had jumped to a record top of $1,050 a tonne after export curbs from India and Vietnam triggered panic buying.