MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Philippines has forecast an 11 percent increase in output of rice in 2013 as it aims to become self-sufficient in the grain this year, the country's agriculture secretary said on Monday, a decision that may keep global rice prices down.
The Philippines, one of the world's major rice buyers, plans to plant rice early and expand the area devoted to the crop to meet its self-sufficiency goal, Proceso Alcala said. The goal is despite lower-than-target output last year.
"We are doing everything to attain self-sufficiency," Alcala told reporters, adding he expects annual per capita domestic rice consumption to ease to 115 kg this year from 119 kg last year.
The country's unmilled rice production this year is forecast to reach 20 million tonnes, up from last year's record harvest of 18.03 million tonnes, he said.
The 2012 rice output, though, was slightly below the government target of 18.46 million tonnes.
Alcala said a committee was reviewing whether Manila would need to import rice at all this year, even as he stressed production of the grain could even surpass the 2013 target given good weather and timely government support to farmers.
The Southeast Asian country imported 500,000 tonnes of rice last year, mostly from neighbouring Vietnam and some from Thailand, after buying 860,000 tonnes in 2011.
It was the world's biggest buyer in 2010 with record purchases totalling 2.45 million tonnes.
Rising supplies in Vietnam, Thailand, India and elsewhere and thin demand kept rice prices down last year.
Thailand, which had been the world's biggest rice exporter since 1983 but slipped to No. 3 behind India and Vietnam, may suffer a further drop in exports this year.
RISKS TO OUTPUT TARGET
Alcala said typhoons remain a risk to the government rice output target this year, with an average of 20 typhoons crossing the country annually -- most of them passing through the Philippines' biggest rice areas in the northern Luzon region.
He also said continued rice smuggling may discourage farmers from planting rice.
The official said farmers would also need encouragement via continued irrigation and fertilizer support to ensure the rice production target this year will be met.
Overall farm output in 2012 grew 2.92 percent from a year earlier, below the government's target of 4 percent to 5 percent, partly due to the lower-than-target rice production and a slight decline in fish harvest.
The crops subsector climbed 4.1 percent, led by unmilled rice, which grew 8.1 percent, but the fisheries subsector contracted 0.04 percent.
The farm sector is forecast to grow between 4.3 percent and 5.3 percent this year, Alcala said.
Agriculture accounts for about a fifth of the country's gross domestic product. The government is scheduled to release the 2012 GDP data on Jan. 31.