Rice and sugar harvests in thePhilippines were damaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan when the most powerful storm on record to strike the country unleashed winds and floods that may have killed as many as 10,000 people.
Rice imports may increase, pushing purchases above an estimate of 1.1 million metric tons by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Samarendu Mohanty, senior economist at the International Rice Research Institute. Between 50,000 tons and 120,000 tons of sugar may have been lost, the Sugar Regulatory Administration estimated.
An expansion in rice shipments to the Southeast Asian country would offer opportunities to India, Vietnam andThailand, the world’s three biggest exporters. Stockpiles of the grain in Thailand stand at a record after a state-buying program spurred local harvests. The Philippine government warned that the devastation from Haiyan may hurt the economy, estimating that farm damage totaled 3.7 billion pesos ($85 million.)
“Depending on damage from the typhoon, the import number may change,” Mohanty said by phone. The USDA’s estimate for 2013-2014 was made before the typhoon struck. “I’d think there will be some increase. I can’t tell now how much exactly.”
A total of 131,611 tons of rice was lost, equivalent to a 1.8 percent reduction in fourth-quarter output, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture today. About 71,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of farmland were affected, it said, adding that about 4,000 tons of corn were destroyed.
The Food & Agriculture Organization is dispatching an emergency mission to the Philippines to gauge the impact from the typhoon, said Hiroyuki Konuma, regional representative forAsia and the Pacific region. While it’s too early to assess the magnitude of the damage, rice imports may rise, Konuma said.
While the Eastern Visayas, the hardest hit area, represents only 5 percent of national rice output, the country may not have a lot of inventory, said Mohanty. The Los Banos-based institute is using satellite monitoring to get a better assessment, he said. The nation had total rice stockpiles of 1.8 million tons in October from 2.6 million tons in December, according to the agricultural statistics bureau.
The United Nations said it’s stepping up relief operations, with much of the destruction concentrated in and around Tacloban city, capital of Leyte province. The difficulty in reaching the worst-hit areas means the number of casualties has yet to be confirmed, said the Red Cross in Geneva, which cited Philippine authorities as saying the death toll may reach 10,000.
The United Coconut Association of the Philippines has yet to receive damage reports from the field as the majority of affected areas still have no communications, said Executive Director Yvonne Agustin. The country is the world’s largest producer after India and Indonesia, according to figures from the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community.
The typhoon, which made landfall on Nov. 8, damaged sugar crops in Visayas, which accounts for more than half the nation’s plantations, Regina Martin, head of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, told reporters today. About 25,000 hectares are affected and losses may rise, said Martin.
Cane crops as well as milling infrastructure may have sustained significant damage across northern Negros, Panay and Leyte islands, Green Pool Commodity Specialists Pty said in a report today. Negros represents 55 percent of country’s cane output, Panay about 6 percent and Leyte about 2 percent, said Green Pool, a research company based in Brisbane.
The true extent of the damage in the Philippines may not be known for months, director Tom McNeill, who’s followed sugar for more than 25 years, said in a separate e-mail.
The storm, which reached Vietnam yesterday and then headed for China while weakening, may delay sugar harvesting in Hainan, Guangxi and Guangdong, said Green Pool. China is the world’s second-largest sugar consumer.
Philippine rice imports have declined as the nation progressed toward self-sufficiency. Purchases from overseas peaked at 2.6 million tons in 2008-2009, according to the USDA, which forecasts that China will be the biggest buyer this year.
By Cecilia Yap - Nov 11, 2013 4:02 PM GMT+0700
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