Thailand to start sale of 2 million tonnes of spoiled rice this month

PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - Thailand's military government will begin auctioning 2 million tonnes of rotten rice by the end of this month, looking to offload stockpiles of the staple grain built up under a previous support scheme for farmers.

Thailand, the world's second biggest rice exporter after India, is holding about 13 million tonnes of rice bought at higher-than-market prices to help farmers, a scheme that cost the previous government billions of dollars.

Some 2 million tonnes of the stored rice that has been judged unfit for human or animal consumption is to be auctioned away for such industrial uses as producing ethanol.

"Within this week the foreign trade department at the ministry will announce the terms for selling the ruined rice," said Chutima Bunyapraphasara, the commerce ministry's permanent secretary.

It will be the first time rotten rice has been sold from Thailand's stockpiles strictly for industrial uses.

Of the 13 million tonnes of rice Thailand still holds in its state warehouses, around half, or 6 million tonnes, is"below-standard or rotten", said a commerce ministry statement.

The commerce ministry plans to start this month's auction in lots of between 1,000 and 6,000 tonnes, Chutima told reporters, with interested buyers able to inspect the stocks and submit their bids by the end of the month.

Analysts have said the rotten rice would be sold for far less than edible stocks.

Since Thailand's military government took power in 2014, it has auctioned off 5 million tonnes of rice through several tenders, with sales worth about 5.2 billion baht (S$2 billion), the commerce ministry said.

Thailand accounts for about a quarter of the global rice trade and so far this year has exported around 8 million tonnes, earning the country around 127 billion baht.

Thailand's goal to export 10 million tonnes of rice this year to regain its crown as top exporter will likely not be met, said the commerce ministry.

India was the top rice exporter in 2014, eclipsing Thailand after its multi-billion dollar subsidy scheme led to a massive build-up of rice in storage.