About 500 farmers, rice experts, representatives from the public and private sectors, and members of the media will gather at the upcoming Thai Rice Forum 2012 to look into the Thai rice situation and the move toward the ASEAN Economic Community. Organized jointly by the Thai Rice Foundation under Royal Patronage, Kasetsart University, and the Rice Department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the forum will take place at Kasetsart University in Bangkok on 1 June 2012. It will discuss two major issues that may have impacts on the Thai rice situation and farmers.

The first issue involves trade liberalization, which requires the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers between ASEAN member countries. Starting in January 2010, six members of ASEAN, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, reduced tariffs to zero for merchandises moving across their borders. The remaining four countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam, have committed to achieving the zero-tariff target in 2015 when ASEAN becomes a single community.

rice farmers Thailand
Vietnam will be able to dominate the rice market in ASEAN since qualities of Thai and Vietnamese rice are not much different while Vietnamese rice is cheaper than Thai rice by about 125 US dollars per ton.

The second issue involves climate change and the greenhouse effect on rice production

Faced with these two issues, Thai farmers need to prepare themselves for the new situation. In order to retain its status as the world’s largest rice exporter, Thailand also needs to increase the efficiency of its production and marketing processes. The upcoming Thai Rice Forum 2012 will come up with a proposal to be submitted to relevant agencies to cope with the situation, which provides both threats and opportunities.

According to the Thai Rice Exporters Association, during the first quarter of 2012, Thailand exported 1.6 million metric tonnes of rice, worth more than 33.7 billion baht. Thai rice exports saw a decline in both volume and value, when compared with the figures in the same period of 2011. The five top importers of Thai rice include Nigeria, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, and Japan.

The Office of Agricultural Economics said that Thailand’s rice-planting areas in the 2011/2012 production year dropped from 64.6 million rai, or about 28 million acres, to 61.9 million rai, or 25 million acres, of land. The decline was a result of severe floods in 2011, when more than 10 million rai, or four million acres, of farmland suffered damage, and the second rice crop farming could not be carried out. However, the rice acreage for the annual second rice crop farming in 2012 is likely to increase. Thai rice exports are expected to fall from 10.7 million tonnes in 2011 to 8.5 million tonnes in 2012.

One of the reasons is that India, which is one of the major rice producers, has turned to export white rice and boiled rice again. Although Thai rice exports are likely to decline, the export value remains high, as Thai rice is still in great demand in the world market. So the Thai rice situation still sees bright prospects. ASEAN Focus — Thai Rice and the Move toward the ASEAN Economic Community

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