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Thailand hopes for comeback in Hong Kong jasmine rice market

Thailand is striving to reclaim its position as the largest supplier of jasmine rice to Hong Kong after losing almost half of its footprint in that market to Vietnam for several years.

"We expect the Thai share of the jasmine-rice market in Hong Kong this year to reach 60 per cent, though that level is still below what it used to be - 90 per cent at its highest point," said Witt Maneenetr, trade commissioner of the Thai Trade Centre in Hong Kong.

Currently, the market for Thai fragrant rice in Hong Kong is segmented into two main groups, households and restaurants. Witt said the household segment was not a problem, as these customers are more concerned about quality than price. Restaurants, however, do worry about price.

Last year, Thailand's share of Hong Kong's rice market was 54 per cent, falling from as high as 90 per cent in the last decade. For the first two months of this year, the share dropped to 47-48 per cent. However, it bounced back to above 50 per cent in March, reflecting the improved competitiveness of Thai rice. Meanwhile, Vietnam's share rose by 2-3 percentage points to 40 per cent.

According to the US Department of Agricul-ture (USDA), Vietnam gradually established itself as the second-largest supplier, taking a 41-per-cent market share in 2013 from almost nothing a decade ago. The key reason was price competitiveness.

Hong Kong is one of Thailand's main markets for rice, especially fragrant rice.

Last year, Hong Kong's rice market was worth US$320 million (Bt10.4 billion). Major suppliers include Thailand ($182 million), Vietnam ($93 million) and mainland China ($23 million). Thailand and Vietnam supply long-grain fragrant rice.

Last year, of the 339,000 tonnes of rice exported to Hong Kong, Thailand accounted for 155,000 tonnes while Vietnam's share was 138,000 tonnes. Ten years earlier, Thailand shipped Bt238,000 tonnes to the city while Vietnam exported none, according to the USDA report.

To regain its crown as the top supplier of fragrant rice to Hong Kong, Witt said the Commerce Ministry would invite more than 10 large traders in the city to attend the "Thaifex-World of Food Asia" fair, which will take place from May 21-25.

"We hope the rice-market share in Hong Kong this year will not decline. If the country's three-to-five-year strategy plan is successful, we should reclaim a market share of 70-80 per cent."


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