Philippines set to import 1.2 million tons of rice as caps removed

The Philippines scrapped its two-decade-old caps on imports after consumers were hit hard by high prices including that of rice, which is at the heart of the country’s staple diet. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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Philippines set to import 1.2 million tons of rice as caps removed

  • President Rodrigo Duterte in October ordered the ‘unimpeded’ importation of rice after the country’s inflation shot up
  • Lawmakers have approved the bill removing the import cap on rice imports and replacing it with tariffs

MANILA: Rice traders in the Philippines are set to import about 1.2 million tons of the staple food, a state grains agency spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian country lifts a two-decade-old cap on purchases.
Bigger rice purchases by the Philippines, already one of the world’s top importers and consumers of the grain, could underpin export prices in Vietnam and Thailand, traditionally its key suppliers.
Prices in Vietnam fell last week ahead of the country’s largest harvest this month, while the Thai market is likely to see additional supply toward the end of January from the seasonal harvest.
President Rodrigo Duterte in October ordered the “unimpeded” importation of rice after the country’s inflation shot up to 6.7 percent in September and October, the highest in nearly a decade, partly due to food prices.
The National Food Authority (NFA) has approved initial applications from 180 rice traders for permits to import a total of 1.186 million tons of either 5-percent or 25-percent broken white, the NFA spokeswoman said.
“We have not set any deadline for accepting applications to import rice. There’s no more limit,” she said.
Importers are allowed to bring in rice from any country, but grains from Southeast Asian suppliers will be charged a tariff of 35 percent while those from elsewhere will face a 50-percent charge.
Lawmakers have approved the bill removing the import cap on rice imports and replacing it with tariffs. Duterte will “most likely” sign it into law “soon,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday.
Philippine inflation eased in November and December, and the rice tariffication law could help curb it this year by as much as 0.7 percentage point, the central bank has said. Rice is the biggest food item in the country’s consumer price index.


Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

Updated 20 June 2019
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Oil prices climb on improving US demand signs, OPEC agrees to meeting date

  • After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week
  • Members of the OPEC agreed to meet on July 1

TOKYO: Oil prices rose nearly 2 percent on Thursday on signs of improving demand in the United States, the world’s biggest crude consumer, and as OPEC and other producers finally agreed to a date for a meeting to discuss output cuts.
Brent crude futures rose $1.13, or 1.8 percent, to $62.95 a barrel at 0611 GMT. They dropped 0.5 percent on Wednesday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 90 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $54.66 a barrel. WTI fell 0.26 percent in the previous session.
“It’s a very mixed bag of factors. In the US (oil) demand is likely to be picking up into summer and the OPEC meeting looks like there’s going to be an extension or even more cuts is a possibility,” said Phin Zeibell, senior economist at National Australia Bank.
After swelling to near two-year highs, US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week, compared with analyst expectations for a draw of 1.1 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
Refined products also posted surprise drawdowns due to a rise as gasoline demand ticked higher on a weekly basis and surged 6.5 percent from a year ago.
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to meet on July 1, followed by a meeting with non-OPEC allies on July 2, after weeks of wrangling over dates.
OPEC and its allies will discuss whether to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production that runs out this month.
Momentum for an agreement appeared to be building as the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister told Al-Bayan newspaper that an extension is “logical and reasonable.”
Expectations the US Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its next meeting and confirmation that the chief US trade negotiator will meet his Chinese counterpart before a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping next week are also supporting markets.
“Fresh stimulus from the largest economies will greatly improve the demand side argument. A positive outcome with the US — China would be icing on the cake,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at brokers OANDA.
Tensions remain high in the Middle East after last week’s tanker attacks, which boosted oil prices. Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted, with Washington blaming Tehran, which has denied any role.
In the latest escalation, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have shot down a US “spy” drone in the southern province of Hormozgan, the Guards’ news website Sepah News said on Thursday.
“The geopolitical side is the wild card and can’t be predicted, not just the Iran concerns but also the trade meeting between Trump and Xi,” said Zeibell, adding “we expect to see an improvement in oil prices over the next month or two.”