UPDATE 1-Philippines seeking another 300,000 T rice imports amid pandemic
* Govt seeks 300,000 T of rice ahead of lean harvest season
* Deal eyed with Vietnam, India, Thailand, Myanmar or Cambodia
* Philippines' 2020 rice imports on track to hit record high
* Rice export prices in Asia at multi-year peaks on high demand (Adds detail, background)
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, May 11 (Reuters) - The Philippines is seeking another 300,000 tonnes of rice imports to boost state stockpiles while battling the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of its own lean season in the third quarter, a senior official said on Monday.
A government-to-government deal of this volume would raise Philippine rice imports so far this year to a record 3 million tonnes. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement the government has already sent inquiries to Asia's biggest producers in Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Cambodia.
Fresh demand from the Philippines, the world's top rice buyer, could boost export prices in Asia that are already at their highest in as much as two years.
Last week, rice export prices from India held near a nine-month high on strong demand from buyers in both Asia and Africa. Prices in Vietnam for its 5% broken rice variety hit a two-year peak due to lower domestic supplies.
The Philippines, which usually buys most of its rice imports from Vietnam, had a 3.6% year-on-year contraction in its rice harvest in the first quarter.
Vietnam has resumed rice exports after a brief halt in recent weeks while assessing its own supply situation, Dar said, and has committed to start delivering this month the 400,000 tonnes of rice that Philippine traders contracted in April.
"We welcome the decision by Vietnam to resume its rice export policy and taking into account the difficulties faced by various stakeholders during this crisis," Dar said in the statement.
The Philippines has contracted for 666,480 tonnes of rice from Vietnam so far this year, according to government data. Of this, 218,300 tonnes have been delivered, leaving a balance of 448,180 tonnes.
"Vietnamese rice exporters will commence fulfilment of their contracts with Philippine importers, and consider future supply deals under an existing bilateral trade agreement," Dar said.
The Philippines is seeking delivery of the additional 300,000 tonnes of rice before the third quarter, when domestic harvesting is usually low. (Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue)
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