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Rice exports from Thailand, the world’s largest shipper of the grain, may gain more than expected this year, boosted by strong demand from the Middle East and Asia, according to the Thailand Ministry of Commerce.
“Shipments will probably exceed 9.5 million metric tons this year if we continue selling 1 million tons a month,” Permanent Secretary for Commerce Yanyong Phuangrach, said at a conference in the outskirts of Bangkok recently. That figure, forecasted by the government in January, compared with 9 million tons last year.
Rice, the staple food for half the world, gained to the highest level in more than two years in February when global food costs rose to a record, the United Nations data showed. Thailand, which represents one-third of global shipments of 30 million tons, exported 3 million tons in the first quarter of the year, Yanyong said. That was a 40 per cent increase from 2.14 million tons last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce, according to a Bloomberg report.
“Rice trade this year will be outstanding both in terms of quantity and prices,” Yanyong said without providing a price forecast. “Prices are unlikely to fall despite new crops coming onto the market because overseas demand is strong,” Yanyong said.
Strong overseas demand is expected from Africa, Bangladesh and the Middle East, said Yanyong.
Thailand reached deals to supply a total of 250,000 tons of rice to Bangladesh and Iraq under government-to-government contracts, said Pranee Siriphand, deputy director general at the Department of Foreign Trade.
“Normally exports are quite slow during the beginning of the year. If we can sell this much in the first three months, we’ll definitely ship 10 million tons this year,” said Sermsak Kuonsongtum, vice president of Thai Rice Exporters Association.
“The Price should peak at US$550 a ton this year in the third quarter when supplies subside,” said Sermsak said.
Thai 100 per cent grade-B white rice has fallen 8.8 per cent so far this year and was last at US$506 a ton on April 20.
Thai rice output from the country’s main harvest in the crop year starting October may rise 4.6 percent to 23.2 million tons, the Office of Agricultural Economics said. The main harvest represents 70 per cent of the country’s total output.
Indonesia, the world’s second-largest buyer after Nigeria, is estimated to import 1.75 million tons of rice, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its April monthly report. Malaysia may increase imports to 1.04 million tons, making it the second-largest Southeast Asian buyer, it said.
“The Philippines’s rice import plan this year will stay at 860,000 tons,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.