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.


Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

Updated 24 March 2019
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Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

  • The initiative will help Abu Dhabi reduce reliance on oil
  • Mubadala hopes to attract Chinese and Indian companies

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi will commit up to $272 million to support technology start-ups, it said on Sunday, in a dedicated hub as part of efforts to diversify its economy.

US tech giant Microsoft will be a strategic partner, providing technology and cloud services to the businesses that join the hub as the capital of the United Arab Emirates continues its push to reduce reliance on oil revenue.
Abu Dhabi derives about 50 percent of its real gross domestic product and about 90 percent of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, according to ratings agency S&P.
The emirate launched a $13.6 billion stimulus fund, Ghadan 21, in September last year to accelerate economic growth. Ghadan means tomorrow in Arabic. The new initiative, named Hub 71, is linked to Ghadan will also involve the launch of a $136 million fund to invest in start-ups, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Mubadala Ventures, the technology arm of Mubadala Investment Co.
The goal is to have 100 companies over the next three to five years, Ajami said. “The market opportunities in this region are immense,” he added.
Mubadala, with assets of $225 billion and a big investor in tech companies, will act as the driver of the hub, located in the emirate’s financial district.
Softbank will be active in the hub and support the expansion of companies in which it has invested, Ajami said, adding that Mubadala is also aiming to attract Chinese and Indian companies, among others.
Mubadala which has committed $15 billion to the Softbank Vision Fund, plans to launch a $400 million fund to invest in leading European technology companies.
Incentives mapped out by the government include housing, office space and health insurance as part of the $272 million commitment, Ajami said.
Abu Dhabi will also announce a new research and development initiative on Monday linked to the Ghadan 21 plan, according to an invitation sent to journalists.