The Philippines could be forced to import more rice after Typhoon Koppu hit major grain producing regions over the weekend causing "significant" losses, a senior agriculture official said on Tuesday.
Official preliminary estimates on losses stood at around 412,000 tonnes of paddy rice, accounting for about 5 percent of the government's forecast fourth quarter harvest of 7.95 million tonnes. A final figure is expected in around a week.
"If you ask me if we need to import more, I would say 'yes', but up to what volume and when, I don't know," Edilberto de Luna, Department of Agriculture assistant secretary for field operations, told Reuters on Tuesday.
"This is a significant volume because the typhoon hit our major rice-producing provinces."
Powerful typhoon Koppu plowed into the northeastern Philippines before dawn on Sunday destroying homes and displacing thousands of people.
The Southeast Asian country remains one of the world's biggest buyers of rice, with imports approved for delivery this year reaching nearly 1.8 million tonnes, mainly from Vietnam and some from Thailand, two of the world's top suppliers.
Prior to the typhoon, the country's National Food Authority Council had already been assessing the need to import 1 million tonnes of rice next year on top of 500,000 tonnes approved for the first quarter.
The typhoon losses add to those from a dry spell induced by the El Nino weather phenomenon, forecast to intensify this quarter and extend until the second quarter of 2016.
Rice output in the third quarter was likely slightly lower than initially projected due to the dry spell, pest attack and typhoons, while stocks had shrunk steadily for four straight months starting May.
But de Luna said that rains brought by Koppu had filled up water-starved dams, which should allow rice farmers to begin planting soon without worrying too much about water access.
Total crop losses from the typhoon, including those for rice, corn and other crops, were initially valued at 6.3 billion pesos ($137 million), he said.
Corn losses were "minimal" at about 5,000 tonnes because harvesting was finished before Koppu's arrival, de Luna added.