MANILA - The Philippines' state grains procurement agency awarded rice supply deals for up to 500,000 tonnes to the world's top rice exporters, Vietnam and Thailand, and said it would not rule out importing more this year.
Officials of the National Food Authority (NFA), however, have yet to discuss any new plan for imports, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday, after announcing the council's approval of the government-to-government deals with Vietnam and Thailand.
"There are no discussions yet" in the NFA Council on any additional purchases, the spokesman said.
Vietnam will deliver 300,000 tonnes while Thailand will ship 200,000 tonnes before May to build up state stockpiles ahead of the lean harvest season which begins in July. The deals followed an auction held on Feb. 27.
The Philippines remains one of the world's biggest rice buyers despite record-high domestic harvests in recent years, including last year's.
The Southeast Asian nation imported around 1.7 million tonnes last year, the biggest amount in four years, as local supplies run low, pushing food price inflation to the highest in more than five years.
Unlike last year, however, there is little pressure now for the NFA to rush purchases as the country's rice inventory stood at more 2.35 million tonnes as of last month, up 17.3 percent from a year earlier, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.
The agency is also looking to buy as much as 189,845 tonnes of paddy rice from local farmers from January to June this year, the highest volume since 2010, when first-half purchases totalled 230,965 tonnes.
The government expects the country's paddy rice output in the first half to rise 2 percent from a year earlier to 8.55 million tonnes.