President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a temporary halt in rice importation from Vietnam as local farmers posted a high yield of the staple this harvest season, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Thursday.
"President Duterte said that while there is a need to import rice to fill up the requirements of the country for buffer stock, the importation must not be done during the peak harvest season as this would compete with the production of the Filipino rice farmers," Piñol said in a statement, citing the President's announcement Wednesday.
The agriculture chief said an additional 1 million metric tons of paddy rice are expected to be harvested this season due to a "dramatic increase" in crop yield.
"The paddy rice harvest for the First Quarter of 2017 from an area of only 997,000 hectares also showed a dramatic increase of over 210,000-metric tons compared to the same period in 2016 from a bigger area of about 1.1-million hectares," Piñol said.
Data from the Department of Agriculture show that the estimated annual rice shortage of the Philippines is about 1.8-million metric tons.
Funds intended for the rice purchase from Vietnam will be reallocated to buy rice from local farmers, Piñol earlier said.
At a harvest festival in Nueva Ecija on Wednesday, the President fired Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Reina Valdez for defying National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino's decision to suspend rice importation given the local harvest season.