Thailand. Prayut demands clear-out of rice stockpiles before end of his regime

Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Commerce Ministry to accelerate sales of the rice in its stockpiles within the term of his military-led regime, as storage costs have been exceeding Bt1 billion a month. Speaking yesterday at the Thailand Rice Convention in Bangkok, an international event aimed at knowledge exchange and discussions on developing the rice industry, Prayut stressed the need to sell off the entire rice stockpile, which had been putting pressure of Thai rice prices for two to three years. To date, the Commerce Ministry has sold about 13 million tonnes of the 18 million tonnes of rice it had in stock, worth more than Bt100 billion. Prayut partially blamed corruption for the low revenues earned from sales of rice rather than the costs entailed by the last elected governments rice-pledging programme, while legal cases arising from that programme drag on in several courts.
The other reason the government must expedite sales of the rice remaining in its warehouses is that its existence has severely distorted the normal rice trade mechanism. Having rice in storage has cost the government more than Bt1 billion per month. The key target is to release rice in stock within this governments term so that it will not have to shoulder this burden further and the [rice] market mechanism will return to normal, Prayut said. The next target is to add value to Thai rice and make Thailand the leader in rice trade with internationally recognised innovative rice products and an efficient rice-market mechanism, he said.
A strategic plan for the rice industry is conclude in the Prayut regimes 20-year national strategy. It includes production restructuring, reduction of rice-farming areas, a balance between production for local consumption and for export, and making farmers more self-sufficient for sustainability. Clustering of community enterprises for rice innovation is also encouraged in line with the regimes Thailand 4.0 policy, and the next step is to push for concrete plans.
On the regional front, Prayut said Thailand was trying to connect its plans for the rice market with those of neighbouring countries particularly Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), given their proximity in culture and lifestyle. Collaboration will yield more benefits than competition, and this collaboration must embrace the whole system extending from the public to private and business sectors, he said. CLMV pays high attention on a transformation from rice grown for sales to rice with innovation for higher rice prices, while changing farming crops suitable for land. Prayut said farmers should change their mindsets to see opportunities in consumer trends.
Outstanding products such as bakery materials, cosmetics and skincare products must be developed to serve the mass market. If this strategy is successful, Thailand will become the leader in the rice market as targeted and, under the 20-year national strategy, drive itself out of the middle-income trap, he said. In regard to Thailands G2G with China, no progress has been made yet, Prayut said, adding the problem arose in difficulties in negotiation in other matters an that affected the rice trade negotiation. Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said development of the rice industry would focus on linking research and innovation with commercial products, both food and non-food. Rice prices have been rising after her ministry expedited the sale of stockpiled rice and there is about 2 million tonnes left, she said.
The Thailand Rice Convention brought together representatives of the public and private sectors from more than 40 countries including China, Japan, Malaysia, Iran and South Africa. During the event, the government met with Iraqs trade minister on opportunities for export of Thai rice to that country. It also met with Vietnams deputy minister of industry and trade to discuss bilateral cooperation. The convention was also a venue for business matching between Thai exporters of rice and rice products and importers. Today, foreign representatives were to visit the Royal Chitralada Project involving the processing of Thai rice into innovative products.
The Thailand Rice Convention, which began on Sunday and ends today, aims to promote Thailand as the worlds rice-trade centre and showcase Thai rice innovation. It is hosted by the Commerce Ministrys Department of Foreign Trade in cooperation with other organisations in both the public and private sectors. Highlights of the convention include the multidimensional facets of innovation within Thailands rice industry.
The Thailand Rice Convention 2017 comes under the theme Rice Plus, as it aims at showcasing Thailands potential in the global arena for quality rice trade and production, Apiradi said. Various innovative rice products are presented, showing how far the Thai rice industry has advanced in its technological development and technological integration. Reaping the benefits of the technological revolution, all parties in the industry have benefited from tremendous value addition to rice. This corresponds with the governments Thailand 4.0 economic model striving to transform the Thai economy into a value-based economy.

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