Kingdom could regain rice-export crown

Economy May 09, 2014 00:00

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The N

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With large stocks, Thailand may emerge top exporter this year as world demand rises

Thailand has high potential to become the world’s leading rice exporter once again this year, with export volume reaching 10 million tonnes, under the government’s plan to accelerate the sale of rice from its stockpiles.
Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said yesterday that the rice trade in the world market was improving, driven by concern over drought and natural disasters. Consequently, more trading would be seen in the second half of the year, which Thailand should be able to cash in on in a big way, as it is major holder of rice stocks.
“The country was able to sell about 700,000 tonnes of rice a month during the first four months of the year. Given high demand for rice in the market and Thailand’s plan to release more from its stockpiles, export this year should recover and reach almost 10 million tonnes, making the country the world’s largest rice exporter again,” he said.
He explained that the government planned to sell about a million tonnes of rice under government-to-government deals in the following months, involving two or three countries. China, for one, is highly interested in signing such contracts with Thailand.
Surasak said the Thai government was finalising negotiations with some countries and if no problems arise, it should be able to sign the contracts soon.
Moreover, the department is scheduled to open bidding for about 400,000 tonnes of rice next week. Surasak is confident that the upcoming auction will be able to sell a high volume of rice at good prices because of the high demand in the market.
He added that the rice price was expected to increase slightly in the second half of the year.
According to a report by the department, Thailand exported 2.1 million tonnes of rice from January to April 4, an increase of 28.27 per cent compared with the same period last year. 
But export value dropped 6.6 per cent to US$1.1 billion (Bt35.7 billion).
The department is confident that the Commerce Ministry will be able to return to the state Bt20 billion that was spent to pay to farmers under the pledging programme by the end of this month, thanks to large rice sales from the stockpile. Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, agreed that Thailand should be able to export more rice this year, and export volume could reach 8.5 million tonnes.
Global factors that should be closely monitored include natural disasters, which could cause India to halt or delay its exports in the second half of the year, he pointed out.
However, Chookiat has expressed concern over uncertain rice-management policy during the interim government. 
He said the caretaker government would face more difficulty raising money to clear the overdue payments to farmers under the pledging scheme.