Philippines wants to boost rice cooperation with Vietnam to ensure food security

A man works at a rice processing factory in Vietnam's southern Mekong delta city of Can Tho

HANOI (Reuters) - The Philippines wants to boost cooperation on rice with Vietnam to ensure its food security, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said during a visit to Vietnam over the weekend.

Laurel visited Vietnam's Mekong Delta province of An Giang, one of the key rice-producing areas of the Southeast Asian country, the province's People's Committee said in a statement on Monday.

Vietnam is the world's third-largest exporter of rice, and the Philippines has been its largest buyer in recent years.

Vietnam's exports to the Philippines accounted for 45.4% of its total rice shipments in the first five months of this year.

"The Philippines population grows 1.5% annually, driving up its demand for rice, while domestic supplies haven't been able to match, and therefore (it) has to increase imports," Laurel said at a meeting with Vietnamese authorities during the visit, according to the statement.

Laurel also said he wanted Vietnamese rice companies to consider investing in the Philippines, the statement said.

Vietnam and the Philippines sealed agreements covering rice trade and agriculture cooperation during a state visit to Hanoi by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in January.

To manage inflation pressures, the Philippines has recently lowered its tariff on rice to 15% from 35%.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by John Mair)