March 22, 2004



Philippines To Buy Corn From India, Argentina, US

The Philippines will look to India, Argentina and the United States for corn supply following the Department of Agriculture's decision to ban corn imports from bird flu infected countries, a senior official said on Monday.
Art Salazar, the agriculture department's program director for corn, said the department has insisted that no corn from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and possibly China, should be imported into the country to effectively prevent a bird flu outbreak.
The National Food Authority wants to buy up to 350,000 metric tons of corn imports in a tender April 2 to fill the domestic shortfall. The NFA will buy the corn on behalf of poultry and hog farmers and feed millers.
Discussions on possible corn import sources were made during a pre-bidding conference held March 19.
Salazar said that while there were confirmed outbreaks of bird flu in the U.S., an import ban on U.S. corn isn't necessary as "they have a good quarantine system."
Confirmed outbreaks of bird flu were reported in the U.S. states of Texas, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

A final decision on whether or not to allow China to be a possible source of imports will be made Tuesday, he added.
However, a Manila-based corn trader said the NFA may end up not buying any corn if China is included in the ban.
"The import ban is a foolhardy. Buying corn outside of Asia will be very expensive for end users. Indian corn may not pass the requirements. Besides, there's no available quantity to supply the 350,000-ton requirement," the trader said.
The NFA has specified a corn grade equivalent to U.S. grade no. 2 or better.
The trader said U.S. corn would cost around $200/ton, C&F basis, much higher than Thai corn, which costs around $180/ton, the trader said.
The Bureau of Animal Industry earlier made a recommendation for the country to avoid buying corn from bird flu infected areas, saying that corn could serve as a "mechanical carrier" of the disease.
The Philippines has remained free of the bird flu virus even as the disease has affected ten neighboring countries.

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