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Philippines to buy up to 200,000 tonnes US rice
MANILA , The Philippines, one of Asia's largest rice importers, said on Thursday it plans to buy between 160,000 and 200,000 tonnes of US rice for next year's needs.
This would be the biggest volume of rice ever imported from the United States through concessional loans, officials said. Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo told a news conference Manila plans to buy the rice using a $40 million loan under the US government's PL480 programme this year.
PL480 is a commodity loan scheme given by the US government to developing countries where they can borrow under favourable interest rate conditions.
The Philippines, one of the strongest supporters in Asia of Washington's war on terror, has been importing rice since 1983 to cover production shortfalls.
The country has recently been turning to cheaper rice offered by neighbouring countries Vietnam and Thailand.
"At least 25 percent of the total $160 million being made available to the entire world will be given to the Philippines, and the $40 million is the largest ever to be received by a single country," Lorenzo said.
The US rice would cut the total volume that the country might need to buy overseas next year.
Lorenzo had previously said the Philippines aims to attain self-sufficiency next year, with output of unmilled rice seen reaching between 14.98 and 15.86 million tonnes.
The country is targeting higher output of 14.2 million tonnes this year compared with 13.2 million last year by planting higher-yielding seeds and using fertiliser and water more efficiently.
But other officials said the Philippines may still need to import rice next year.
"Additional imports will still be needed in the first three quarters despite projections of self-sufficiency because most of the harvest is in the fourth quarter," said Gregorio Tan, deputy administrator of state trading firm National Food Authority.
The fourth-quarter rice harvest in the Philippines accounts for 40 to 50 percent of output. "If ever, the possibility of not having to import will be in 2005," Tan said.
Philippine rice imports this year are expected to reach about 1.07 million tonnes, including 22,000 tonnes of US rice given by the US government as a grant and another 37,000 tonnes extended under a commodity loan.
Officials said the largest volume of US rice imported by the Philippines so far under PL480 was in 2000 when it bought about 105,000 tonnes.
MGR Archive 7.7.2003
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