Commerce Minister firm on rice deal with China


Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan insisted yesterday that China has promised to buy one million tonnes of rice from Thailand annually.

He reiterated the government-to-government rice deal with China would proceed after criticisms from several quarters which said it would be impossible for the mainland to make such a huge purchase.

Mr Niwatthamrong, concurrently the commerce minister, said he would lead a Thai delegation to China next month to discuss the rice sales with his Chinese counterpart following a recent agreement by leaders of the two countries.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said early this week that her Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang agreed to buy one million tonnes of rice and 200,000 tonnes of rubber from Thailand annually for the next five years.

Mr Niwatthamrong said the Thai government has set a target to sign the rice deal with China as soon as possible or in December at the latest, and Thailand would also offer to sell other agricultural produce including rubber, tapioca, maize and sugarcane.

The two countries have agreed on a barter trade of Thai agricultural produce and China’s high-speed trains, he said.

He said Thailand would sell 1.2 million tonnes of rice to a Chinese state enterprise in Hellongjiang province this month with an agreement to deliver the grains in a year.

Besides, the Thai Rice Exporters Association has signed agreements to export one million tonnes of rice to Chinese state enterprises in the next five year, or 200,000 tonnes annually, he said.

He said Thailand has three rice export agreements with China at a combined export volume of 7.2 million tonnes over five years, and rice in the country’s stockpiles would be sufficient for exports though some were damaged by floods.

He said the Commerce Ministry would urgently hold discussions with the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), which has stopped payments to farmers for their rice sales due to liquidity problem.

The Cabinet has approved a Bt270 billion budget for the rice pledging scheme in the next harvests and it is the duty of the Finance Ministry and BAAC to finance the project and allocate payments to farmers, he said.