'Balance of rice supply and demand key to food security'

Economy May 21, 2015 01:00

By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE N

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COOPERATION among rice-producing and -importing nations is crucial to ensuring global food security as the world is challenged by a rapidly rising population, climate change, low-quality soil and reduced water sources for growing cereal crops, the "Thaila



 
At the convention, held in Bangkok and chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, speakers said the world needed to cooperate in balancing supply and demand, so that neither farmers nor consumers suffered from imbalances or fluctuating rice prices.
Prayut said that as the world’s leading rice producer, Thailand did not want to see skyrocketing prices, as they would hurt both consumers and farmers in the long run.
The key to ensuring global food security and making rice-producing countries like Thailand and others in Asean happy is to cooperate in balancing supply and demand, so that rice prices are stable, he stressed.
The world is being challenged by its rising population and higher rice consumption, he said, adding that the rice market had expanded to all regions of the globe, no longer limited largely to Asia as it was increasingly recognised as a high-nutrition cereal.
“Already, more than 3 billion people consume rice as their staple food, causing many countries to turn their attention to developing rice varieties and optimising the capacity of rice cultivation and trade.
 
The next 20 years 
“In the next 20 years, the world’s population will increase by 20 per cent, and that implies more rice consumption. Therefore, every nation should cooperate more in the form of research and development in rice production and trading,” said the prime minister.
Within Asean, Thailand will strive to forge closer cooperation to ensure stable rice prices in the world market, while farmers will get stable and better incomes in the long run, he said.
To promote rice-industry growth, Prayut said the government would focus on promoting the production of quality rice, at a higher volume, and with less intervention in the market.
The government aims to increase the yield for Thai rice by 25 per cent in the next five years, while lowering production costs by 20 per cent over the same period, he said.
Prayut said the focus on non-chemical rice production, and on premium rice grains and varieties, would be promoted in the Kingdom.
Jeremy Zwinger, president and chief executive officer of The Rice Trader industry report in the US, said every nation needed to be more concerned about food security because of rising population numbers, as well as reduced sources of water for the cultivation of crops.
“Food is critical. The world should focus on adopting high technology to produce more rice grains, and increase supply of rice to ensure price stability,” he said.
Zwinger said global rice trading now took place in a highly competitive environment, especially in Asia, where most of the major supply nations are located.
Along with lower oil prices, high stockpiles of rice in Thailand have caused a fall in prices in recent times, although they could fluctuate and increase in the future as fuel prices rise, rice stocks decline in many countries, and exchange rates fluctuate, he told the convention.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the key for sustainable development of the Thai industry was to introduce zoning for rice cultivation, while no government should intervene in the trading mechanism.