MANILA - The Philippines ordered imports of 250,000 tonnes of rice on Monday as officials said two typhoons over the past 15 days had badly damaged farmlands and roads in the north and killed over 650 people.
The National Food Authority said it would hold a tender on Oct 30 for the rice shipment, which it wanted delivered between January and April.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said on radio that the storms had caused damage of 11 billion pesos ($237 million) to crops and farmland but insisted there was no immediate shortage of rice, the national staple.
We don't have a rice supply problem, he said.
Officials have previously said the Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, was looking at importing around 2 million tonnes of the grain for its 2010 needs following hefty crop losses due to the storms.
That volume is up nearly 13 percent from this year's imports of 1.775 million tonnes, the bulk of which was supplied by Vietnam via an intergovernment deal.
Officials have said damage to roads and bridges from the storms could reach 4.77 billion pesos.
Typhoon Ketsana on September 26 inundated areas in and around Metro Manila, killed 337 people and forced nearly half a million people from their homes, the National Disaster Coordinating Council has said.
Typhoon Parma, which battered the northern Philippines for over a week, flooded vast areas in the rice-growing provinces of northern Luzon and killed 314 people in landslides and drownings, rescue officials have said.
Baguio City, the biggest town in the north, is virtually cut off from the rest of the country because of landslides. Officials said one lane on one highway was open to light vehicles only, and that workers were using dynamite to remove huge boulders which blocked other roads to the north.
Officials are considering a possible $1 billion rehabilitation plan for typhoon-hit areas to be funded mostly by foreign aid. The House of Representatives was also rushing through a 10 billion pesos supplemental budget for relief works and could approve it as early as Monday, officials said.
Besides setting off landslides in the mountains, rains dumped by Typhoon Parma have swollen rivers and reservoirs, forcing dams used for hydropower and irrigation to release water and causing more flooding in areas downstream.
Parma first hit the Philippines on October 3 and hovered around the northern part of the main Luzon island throughout the week before weakening and moving out to sea.
(Reporting by Manny Mogato, Editing by David Fox)