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Thailand struggles to regain world’s largest rice exporter title

In Thailand, a strong baht, Asia’s best performing currency in 2019, has kept away potential buyers who find cheaper markets elsewhere, such as in Vietnam.

National News Bureau of Thailand

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 After losing the number one global rice exporter position for three years, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has met with related agencies and rice exporters to find measures to reclaim the top spot.

Speaking after a meeting with representatives from the Rice Department, the Department of Foreign Trade, the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and rice sellers, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Praphat Phothasoothon said the agencies and companies have agreed to solve some cumulative issues in rice exports, as Thailand currently does not produce new rice varieties which are currently in demand in the global market.

Severe drought is adding pressure to Thailand’s  main economic crops — rice, rubber and sugar  — and its agricultural sector, which employs around 11 million people.

Statistic: Principal rice exporting countries worldwide in 2018/2019 (in 1,000 metric tons) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Stronger competition from Vietnam and Cambodia

The country’s rice exports have seen stronger competition from Vietnam and Cambodia, with Myanmar expected to be even more competitive in the future. This situation has lowered the usual 10 million annual tons of rice exports from Thailand to just 7.5 million last year.

Most Thai rice varieties are white, hard rice which are not in demand in foreign countries. Related departments will be working to improve the variety to meet customer demand.

Drought response and rice farm zoning plan

At this meeting, related departments have been assigned to formulate a drought response and rice farm zoning plan, to be completed in two weeks, and to be implemented in the next farming season starting around May.

The Rice Department has been assigned to speed up research into new rice varieties, in addition to the varieties recently introduced, in order to meet the fast changing consumer demands. These research projects will receive government funding.

For areas that are not suitable for rice farming, the Department of Livestock Development will be holding a 3-year occupational promotion campaign. This will help reduce the overall number of rice farms in the country, to prevent oversupply, which affects the price.

Soft rice grains are now in greater demand by global customers, such as the PSL 07023-CNT-18-2-1-3 variety, which is being planted in a pilot project by farmers in Phichit.

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