ASIA - The massive typhoon that ravaged central Philippines on Friday laid waste an important rice growing area and is likely to raise the need for extra imports, officials and traders said.
The typhoon is estimated to have killed 10,000 people and displaced more than 600,000, with rescue workers still struggling to reach stricken towns and villages on Monday.
Around a quarter of the Philippines' rice is cultivated in areas hit by the typhoon, but farmers had finished harvesting most of the crop, a National Food Authority official told Reuters.
Dennis Arpia, senior executive assistant at the NFA, reckoned that some 16,000 bags (800 tonnes) of rice had been damaged, mainly in Leyte province, but he gave no estimate for the scale of damage to the standing crop.
Increased imports by the Philippines could underpin rice prices, which have been held down by Thailand's record high stocks.
Before the typhoon struck, the market had been estimating the Philippines' rice imports would rise to around 1.5 million tonnes in 2013/14 due to demand outstripping slowing growth in domestic production, but traders now see it needing more.
"Not only will they need to cover for whatever has been lost in the typhoon, they will need more rice for distribution in the affected areas," said one Singapore-based rice trader with an international trading company.
Arpia said, however, that there were stocks elsewhere in the Philippines that could be sent to the disaster-hit region.
"We have more than enough stocks in other provinces to meet the needs of the provinces hit hard by the typhoon," Arpia said.