Thailand’s fragrant rice championship is challenged

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BANGKOK, Oct 8 – The global No 1 rank of Thailand’s fragrance rice is being strongly challenged by neighbouring competitors, especially Vietnam and Cambodian, Thai Rice Association honorary president Chookiat Ophaswongse said Monday.

He said Cambodia, earlier far behind Thailand in the production of fragrant rice, is emerging with increased cultivation of the variety given the quality of its soil, which is similar to Thailand’s for growing fragrant rice.

Vietnam and Cambodia sell fragrant rice at US$650/tonne and $900/tonne respectively while Thai fragrant rice is exported at $1,100-1,200/tonne, he said, adding that Thai fragrant rice is sometimes mixed with other varieties.

Double crop planting and a failure to set up a zoning system for good quality rice contributed to the mixture of rice varieties, he said.

Noting that the purity of Thai fragrant rice is only 80-90 per cent, Mr Chookiat called on the government to boost research and development of paddy varieties so that Thai farmers produce rice with longer grain and more fragrance.

He said Thailand will possibly export 6.5 million tonnes of rice, at a total value of US$4.4 billion, this year. This excludes government-to-government sales which are lower than last year.

Fragrant rice represents 15-17 per cent of total exports, or at 850,000-900,000 tonnes.

According to a rice trade report on global rice exports, as of September 18, India is the biggest rice exporter with 5.56 million tonnes, followed by Vietnam 5.35 million tonnes, Thailand at 4.87 million tonnes, Pakistan 2.45 million tonnes and the United States 2.45 million tonnes.

Thailand remains the No 1 exporter of fragrant rice at 900,000 tonnes, followed by Vietnam at 700,000 tonnes.