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Philippines to sharply cut 2011 rice imports

MANILA, January 11, 2011 (AFP) – The Philippines, the world’s biggest rice importer last year, plans to sharply cut its imports of the grain this year, the head of the state grains agency said Tuesday.

National Food Authority administrator Angelito Banayo, asked about rice import plans for the year, told reporters: “Much much lower, probably not even half – probably one third.” He would not give specific figures.

The size of Philippine rice imports means the country’s trading plans affect global prices of the commodity.

The government is set to decide on the actual rice import volume on Friday, and the first tenders will probably be made next month, Banayo said.

Banayo said the government planned to cut imports because it already had a lot of rice stored from previous years.

The agriculture ministry set an import ceiling of 1.5 million tonnes of the cereal last year, but data from the grains agency’s website said 2.13 million tonnes of rice were actually shipped into the country in 2010.

The data did not specify if the tenders for all these shipments were also made last year, or if some were made earlier.

Other officials from the grains agency contacted by AFP declined to comment on the discrepancy.

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