THE PHILIPPINES' National Food Authority (NFA) said it would buy 100,000 tons of rice from either Vietnam or Thailand, and may open a tender later this year for 20,000 tons more to complete the country's import requirements.
The state grains procurement agency would seek offers on Tuesday from the world's two biggest rice exporters to ensure the shipment arrives before the start of the lean harvest season in July, NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo said.
"We will send invitations today to Thailand and Vietnam for 100,000 tons," Banayo said in a text message.
The two countries could also participate in a tender for the remaining 20,000 tons volume later this year, he said. Cambodia would also be a possible supplier with the Philippines looking to sign a rice supply deal with the country by May 30.
The rice purchases are part of the Philippines' planned 2012 imports of up to 500,000 tons, well below its record imports of 2.45 million tons in 2010 and 860,000 tons last year as it increases domestic rice production.
Private rice traders and farmers' groups were also allowed to bring in up to 380,000 tons earlier this year.
The Philippines usually buys most of its rice from the world's No. 2 exporter Vietnam, and small volumes from the biggest seller Thailand.
Manila's rice purchase plan may lift prices of the grain. Last week, rice prices in Vietnam slipped on weak demand, with the 5 percent broken rice dropping to $430 a ton, free on board Saigon Port, from $440-$445 a week before.
Vietnam's 25 percent broken grade fell to $390 a ton from $395-$400 a week ago.
In contrast, Thai rice prices hit a seven-month high last week on tight market supply as the government moved to stockpile the grain to push up prices amid falling foreign demand.
The price of benchmark 100 percent B grade Thai white rice rose 5 percent to $640 per ton from the previous week's $610. The 5 percent broken grade white rice was at $612 per ton, up from the previous week's $595.
Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the Philippines was on track to produce a record 18.46 million tons of unmilled rice this year and to be self-sufficient in the national staple by the end of 2013. (Reuters)