Thailand set to reclaim top rice exporter title

Thailand this year is certain to reclaim its crown as the world's largest rice exporter, with volume reaching 10.7 million tonnes, valued at US$5.2 billion (S$6.9 billion).

The expected comeback will result from the end of excessive prices under the previous rice pledging scheme, and huge rice stocks on hand.

With continued high-end stocks, and anticipated lower rice production in the world market next year, the Kingdom is expected to ship up to 10.5 million tonnes in 2015.

In 2013, Thailand lost its position as the world's leading rice exporter, with a total of 6.9 million tonnes in shipments.

According to the Thai Rice Exporters Association, as of December 9 this year, the volume of rice shipments had reached 10.27 million tonnes, growing by a significant 66 per cent year on year.

The Foreign Trade Department also reported that rice shipments in the first 11 months reached 9.8 million tonnes, a 66-per-cent surge, while export value reached Bt156.43 billion, rising by 29.5 per cent. In terms of US dollars, export value rose 21.7 per cent to US$4.87 billion.

About 1.06 million tonnes was exported under government-to-government or government-to-private contracts.

In the first 11 months of this year, India was the world's second-biggest rice supplier, shipping 8.7 million tonnes, followed by Vietnam at 6.8 million tonnes, Pakistan at 3.2 million tonnes, and the United States at 2.7 million tonnes.

Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand was expected to ship larger volumes of rice this year and throughout next year, as global production is down, while Thailand has the ability to ship large amounts from its stocks.

Duangporn said Thailand should maintain its status as the world's largest rice exporter next year on lower output in many countries. Many rice-producing countries have been affected by the El Nino weather phenomenon and drought, while demand remains high.

The US Department of Agriculture reported that the world's stocks of rice would be lowered from 106.8 million tonnes this year to 99.1 million tonnes in 2015. Global rice production would be down slightly from 476.9 million tonnes to 475.2 million tonnes. Demand for rice would increase from 480.2 million tonnes to 482.9 million tonnes, while total trade volume would be unchanged at around 41.9 million tonnes this year and next.

Currently, Thailand has about 17.7 million tonnes of rice in government stocks.

Duangporn said the government would continue to sell rice from the stockpiles next year. As part of its plan to clear up rice stocks, the Commerce Ministry will consider new methods, such as selling the entire stock to traders directly. This may cut government losses from quality deterioration in the warehouses, she said.

The department reported that many rice traders queued at the Commerce Ministry yesterday to join in the fourth rice auction of the year. The ministry was able to sell about 247,000 tonnes immediately from a total volume of 398,000 tonnes on offer because traders bid good prices.

Of the 34 traders, 21 offered bids above floor price, so the department decided to sell to them. For the remaining amounts, a working committee will ask bidders to raise their offers higher and the department will decide again whether to sell the rice at those new price levels. The next rice auction will open in the new year.

From this year's four auctions, the ministry was able to release about 460,000 tonnes of rice.