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US predicts Thailand will be top rice exporter this year

Thailand will recapture the title of the world’s top rice exporting country this year according to a forecast issued by the United States Department of Agriculture last week.  The USDA predicted that Thailand will export 11 million tons of rice in 2014, outpacing closest rivals India and Viet Nam.
 
Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce and the USDA attributed strong shipments of Thai rice this year to more competitive pricing and robust efforts by the government to sell off existing stocks that had been accumulating over the past two-and-a-half years.  Thailand’s rice exports are an important component of food security in Asia and beyond, and the success of the industry is a point of pride for the country.  Rice growing and consumption are integral not just to the Thai diet and economy, but to Thai culture.
 
For more than three decades Thailand was the number one rice exporting country in the world.  The price for Thailand’s Grade B 100 percent white rice is used as the benchmark for measuring world rice prices by the industry and also the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  Thailand’s more expensive, higher quality “hom mali,” or jasmine fragrant rice, is widely regarded as among the best and most flavorful strains in the world.
 
Both strains helped power Thailand’s dominance in the international rice trade.  But Thailand lost the top ranking in 2011-12 when the previous government intervened in the market by guaranteeing rice farmers unrealistically high prices for their paddy and then demanding higher prices from global buyers.  Many of those buyers turned to other sources, and India and Viet Nam overtook Thailand in rice sales.
 
The current government ended the market intervention upon taking power, and as prices returned to more natural levels, rice sales and exports have picked up.
 
From January through August, Thailand exported 7.3 million tons of rice.  Exports are now expected to average at least one millions tons a month for the remainder of the year.  If the forecast of 11 million tons proves correct, that would surpass Thailand’s previous record for rice exports of 10.14 million tons set in 2004.
 
Government-to-government purchases have a played a strong role in the resurgence.  The Commerce Ministry has sold one million tons to China, 170,000 tons to Indonesia and 300,000 tons to the Philippines.  The latter two countries were not expected to import rice this year, but their harvests fell short.
 
Earlier predictions by the USDA and FAO had Thailand exporting 8.5 million tons in 2014.
 
See the full article at the Thailand Focus website.

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