Philippine government assures Filipinos of enough rice

Manila - PhilippinesThe Philippine government on Friday assured the public that it has bought enough imported rice to meet domestic demand amid fears of a supply shortage.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said remaining tenders for imported rice by the National Food Authority (NFA) will boost the country's supply stock.

"The NFA has already contracted enough volumes to take care of our gap, and right now, additional procurement of NFA stocks are being done for purposes of buffer-stocking," he said.

The Philippines is now the world's biggest rice importer. It has bought about 1.6 million tons so far for 2008, and has set a tender of 675,000 tons for next week.

The government has been distributing less expensive rice to poor communities in the country through the NFA and the military, as prices of the staple grain continued to rise.

Yap said that aside from importing enough supply, the government was also taking steps to boost domestic production of rice, which Filipinos eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

He signed an agreement with the International Rice Research Institute for the training of farmers on new technologies aimed at boosting their production.

The agreement will supplement the government's rice self-sufficiency plan in the next two years, Yap said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo earlier allocated more than 1 billion dollars for an agricultural programme aimed at boosting rice and food production amid fears of a supply shortage.

Arroyo has also declared a war against rice hoarders and tapped the church and the military to distribute cheap rice to the poor to avoid food riots that have gripped other countries. (dpa)

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