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Thai move to reclaim rice crown in Hong Kong

THAILAND is moving aggressively to reclaim its dominant share of the Hong Kong fragrant-rice market, after buyers there agreed to boost their orders.

After leading a recent meeting of exporters and Hong Kong rice suppliers and importers, Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said last week that the government has launched a campaign in Hong Kong, traditionally a major customer of Thai rice, especially fragrant rice, to retake its Thai jasmine rice market back from Vietnam.

Under the plan, the department has designed a project to entice Hong Kong rice consumers into tasting Thai rice. The department has also cooperated with local modern traders such as Aeon to sell Thai rice and set up pavilions at supermarkets providing cooking demonstrations for Thai jasmine rice.

"The department will continue |to boost consumption of Thai rice |by reaching out to end consumers, and will try to support hotels and restaurants that have a huge stock of Thai rice to serve at their restaurants.

Since 2008, when Thailand monopolised 91 per cent of the Hong Kong market for imported fragrant rice, its share has plummeted to about 40 per cent due to high prices.

"Thai Hom Mali rice should regain its piece of the pie soon thanks to close cooperation among the Thai government, Thai exporters and Hong Kong rice traders," he said.

The government will closely work with the private sector to promote rice exports to Hong Kong and other markets, including Singapore.

Marketing campaign

Thailand needs to carry out a marketing campaign emphasising the high quality of its rice to maximise export value. The government will next year focus on persuading Thai rice exporters to concentrate on promoting Hom Mali rice via many channels, mainly to restaurants, the modern trade and directly to Hong Kong consumers.

Thailand is losing its share of the fragrant-rice market to Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Witt Maneenetr, the trade attache at the Thai Trade Office in Hong Kong, said Thailand's share of the jasmine-rice market in Hong Kong is expected to increase to 60 per cent this year from about 50 per cent last year.

Thai jasmine rice is quoted at US$1,020 a tonne, against $950 a tonne for Cambodian fragrant rice and $700 for Vietnamese rice of lower quality.

Some local traders in Hong Kong have tried to reduce costs by diluting Thai jasmine rice with lower quality rice. They fill cheap packages with the mixed rice and claim it as Thai rice. The problem has given a bad reputation to Thai rice.

To restore Thai rice's image, the Thai Trade Office will propose to the Commerce Ministry to sign an agreement with Hong Kong customs to prevent combinations of Thai and other rice and infringements of intellectual property rights.

To reassure consumers of the superb quality of Thai rice, the Hong Kong office will also cooperate with local supermarkets to put up signs on their shelves identifying Thai rice that is guaranteed.

The Thai government will cer-|tify Thai rice so that consumers |will not be lured into purchasing mixed-pack rice, which sell at cheaper prices but are of inferior quality, he added.


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