Rice talks urged during Chinese PM’s visit


BANGKOK, Nov 19 – China should be asked to take a softer stance in its rigid trade and investment measures regarding Thai investors, Chookiat Opaswong, president of the Thai Rice Exporters’ Association said today.

Making the remark in connection with a visit to Thailand by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao tomorrow and Wednesday, Mr Chookiat said Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra should take the opportunity to negotiate with her Chinese counterpart to seek an softening of China’s trade barrier, relaxation of its stiff regulations and more convenience for Thai investors in China.

He expressed concern regarding Thailand’s rice exports to China which was reported at 216,000 tonnes in Jan-Oct 2011 but the export volume was reduced to 91,460 tonnes in the same period of this year, an alarming drop of 57.8 per cent.

The government should take the opportunity of the Chinese leader’s visit to negotiate rice exports on a government-to-government basis, he said, pointing out that China’s demand for rice remains high while Thai rice exports have been battered by competitors like Vietnam and Cambodia which sell their goods at much cheaper prices.

Mr Chookiat said he hoped the government will expand Thailand’s trade with China in various aspects thanks to the long-standing Thai-Chinese relationship.

Painting grim prospects for Thai rice exports next year, Mr Chookiat blamed it on the government’s pledging of rice at Bt15,000-20,000 per tonne which resulted in Thai rice at US$100/tonne higher than that of neighbouring countries.

To be competitive with other rice-exporting countries, Mr Chookiat proposed that the government may reduce the pledging price of white rice to Bt11,000-12,000 per tonne and to give farmers farming products such as fertiliser to a value of Bt3,000.

The proposed measure will make it possible for Thai rice to compete in the international market and next year’s export volume could possibly reach 8-8.5 million tonnes, he said.