Thailand will remain top rice exporter, says govt.

Thailand will maintain its position as the world’s largest rice exporter this year, permanent secretary for commerce Yanyong Phuangrach said.

Thailand had been ranked the top rice exporter in the world for the last 30 years. In recent years the government had raised the price of paddy from 8,000-9,000 baht a tonne to 11,000 baht, while the export price of white rice rose from US$400-500 per tonne to about US$600, Mr Yanyong said.
Responding to remarks by Thai rice traders that Thailand had dropped to third place as a rice exporter, Mr Yanyong said this was not correct. The country was still the world's largest rice exporter, shipping out as much as 3.7 million tonnes of rice over the past six months.
He admitted the amount of rice exported by India and Vietnam had substantially increased because the two major exporters were focusing on increasing the quantity of their rice exports, while Thailand focused on exporting high quality rice to get higher prices, he said.
The permanent secretary said that in the past six months the government has implemented a policy to raise rice prices with the aim of raising farmers' incomes.
The problem was that whenever the government called for bids for its stockpiled rice, the rice traders had forced down the price. When the government wanted to release rice from its stockpile through government to government deals, the rice traders then complained that it had damaged the rice market, he said.
“Rice exporters have benefitted from their business for years. Now the government wants to increase the incomes of rice farmers by setting high rice mortgage prices.
"From now on, the government will focus on the exporting of high quality rice, not on quantity,” said Mr Yanyong.
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom took the same tone, stating he was confident that Thailand will be able to maintain its position as the world’s largest rice exporter.
The government is now in talks on the rice trade with Vietnam and Cambodia, and has confidence it will be able to export at least 8 million tonnes of rice this year, as targeted, he said.
The minister was responding to remarks by Korbsook Iamsuri, chief of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, who said on Wednesday that Thailand's rice industry will collapse unless the government takes a more constructive approach by releasing rice from its huge stockpile accumulated under the rice mortgage scheme.
Ms Korbsook said the government must accept losses from sales due to low global prices and fierce competition. This meant the government would incur losses by selling some of the 17 million tonnes of paddy it bought from farmers last October at below the price it paid for the grain.
This stockpile is equivalent to 10 million tonnes of milled rice, and it will take the government up to two years to sell off that amount.
Weak demand and stiff competition had reduced exports of Thai rice in the first six months by 45 per cent year-on-year to only 3.45 tonnes rice.
Ms Korbsook projected that rice exports in the second half of the year would stand at around three million tonnes.
Mr Boonsong admitted that rice exports over the first half of the year had substantially dropped, but that was not an issue because monthly rice exports were still at a high level.
On the criticism by several academics that the government’s rice mortgage scheme had failed, Mr Boonsong said the academics should be more open-minded and ask the farmers themselves whether they were satisfied with the programme.
He cited a recent survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce which showed that most rice farmers were happy with the rice pledging programme.
Mr Boonsong insisted that the government would not review the programme and would continue it for the betterment of rice farmers.
The mortgage price of paddy would still be set at 15,000 baht a tonne and 20,000 baht per tonne for hom mali (jasmine) paddy, he said.
There would be a meeting of the National Rice Policy Committee on Friday and the Commerce Ministry plans to propose that a total budget of about 200 billion baht be allocated for the rice mortgage scheme, which would start for the next harvest on Oct 1, 2012 and continue through February 2013, he said.
(Source: Bangkok Post)

Thai Rice Exporters Association