August 1, 2003



Philippines To Import 150,000-200,000 Tons Of Corn Due To Typhoon

The Philippines is looking at importing 150,000 to 200,000 metric tons of corn to make up for a shortfall in domestic output after Typhoon Imbudo damaged crops, said Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Thursday.


The import quantity won't be as big as previously expected because a survey of corn fields showed output was better than originally thought, said Lorenzo. He didn't elaborate.


"We are now looking at 150,000 to 200,000 (tons of corn imports) for October because of the typhoon," said Lorenzo.


Last week, he said the Philippines might have to import 300,000 tons of corn due to the typhoon.


Philippine feed millers earlier asked for imports around 400,000 tons to make up for the domestic shortfall.


"It's prudent they want 150,000 tons as the first import. If we need more, (the Department of Agriculture) will consider importing more at a later stage," said Ric Pinca, vice president of the Philippine Association of Feed Millers, Inc.


Typhoon Imbudo was the strongest typhoon to strike the Philippines in five years. It hit the northern province of Isabela, damaging more than half of the 166,000 hectares planted to corn. The corn harvest from Isabela is expected to be available on the local market in October.


Lorenzo said last week the typhoon damaged around 1.1 billion pesos ($1=PHP54.725) worth of rice and corn crops.


The Philippines needs 5.5 million tons of corn annually, mostly for the feed industry. Domestic corn output was initially estimated at 4.7 million tons this year with another 800,000 tons of corn and corn substitutes to be met through imports.


But because of the typhoon, corn output is now expected to be smaller than 4.7 million tons.


Feed industry participants said the National Food Authority will likely oversee the corn imports.


"We haven't decided if it's going to be NFA, but we will make sure it is transparent. We will appoint the office soon, in the next two weeks," said Lorenzo.


Lorenzo said the government may consider lowering the tariff on corn imports for this one import transaction.

"We haven't decided what level, but it will be in the vicinity of 20%" below the current import tariff of 35%, he said.


Industry participants said the government may import the corn duty-free, but will impose a 20% margin before selling the corn to feed millers, which in effect is the same as a 20% import tax.