Asian countries again float idea of rice cartel

In the Philippines, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the government has secured 1.6 million tons of rice to make up for a 10% gap between domestic production and consumption. Still, the country is seeking to buy more for use as a buffer stock.

Yap accompanied Arroyo on her visit to the rice institute, which has been developing rice varieties that can withstand drought or floods to help farmers across the world.

He signed an agreement with the institute Friday to accelerate Philippine rice production.

Yap told reporters he expects the Philippines to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2010 or 2011, barring bad weather, calling it "not a choice, but an imperative."

He said the plan focuses on irrigation, technology and credit support to farmers. It involves a joint breeding program to create high-yielding varieties, plus mapping new rice-growing areas.

Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok and Oliver Teves in Los Banos, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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