MANILA, Philippines - Rice output in the Philippines, the world's largest exporter of the grain, fell in 2010 as the country's farms were hit by a drought and typhoons, the agriculture ministry said Friday.
The ministry's Bureau of Agricultural Statistics said the bad weather also led to a fall in the output of coconuts, a key export for the sector.
Grain production was hit hard by worse-than-expected rains in the first nine months of 2010, with unmilled rice output falling 3.04% from a year earlier to 15.77 million tonnes, the bureau said in a report.
Typhoon Megi destroyed about half a million tonnes of rice when it struck just before harvest in October, also killing 36 people, while Typhoon Conson also devastated the country, killing 111 people.
"The El Nino phenomenon that hit the country this year had adversely affected the sector's production performance," it added.
The long dry spell was followed by typhoons that also destroyed coconuts, leading to a nearly 1% drop in output, the bureau added.
Overall, the agriculture sector contracted 0.12%, it added.
However, Minda Mangabat, head of the bureau's cereal statistics unit, said yields should rise in the first half with more abundant rain as well as a near 10% expansion of rice farm lands.
"Total (unmilled rice) production in January-June 2011 may reach 7.64 million tonnes, 15.4% above last year's level of 6.62 million tonnes," Mangabat said in her written report.
The ministry is consulting with the National Food Authority, the state grains trader, to determine whether rice import targets this year would be affected, Mangabat added.
The head of the grains importing agency, Angelito Banayo, said 10 days earlier it plans to sharply cut its imports of the grain this year because it already had a lot of rice in storeage.
The agriculture ministry set an import ceiling of 1.5 million tonnes last year, but data from the grains agency's website said 2.13 million tonnes of rice were actually shipped into the country in the same period.
The farm sector employs one in three Filipino workers but accounts for less than a fifth of the country's economic output.