No accord reached on rice cartel

PHNOM PENHThailand's bid to push for an Asean ``rice cartel'' has stalled, with the other countries involved in the plan saying they are not ready to institutionalise rice cooperation.

The rice cartel plan was informally agreed to by Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia in August, with the stated aim of increasing rice prices by 10% annually.

An Asean Rice Federation was to be created to work towards that goal.

The plan drew criticism from the Asian Development Bank, which labelled it globally irresponsible.

Speaking after 30-minute talks with his Lao, Myanmar, Thai and Vietnamese counterparts yesterday, Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Cham Praseth said formal cooperation between the five Asean countries had now been put on ice because they were not ready for the move.

He said the countries would instead focus on what could be done within the region to improve rice production standards.

Cham Praseth said the ministers had discussed projects under the Irrawaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, which included the integrated rice production plan.

Instead of developing new rice cooperation institutions, ``we will continue with the existing mechanism which has been in place for 10 years _ the Irrawaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy,'' he said.

Officials said that while no formal agreement was reached on rice cooperation, Thailand was still pushing for regional rice trade collaboration.

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said Thailand would ensure members under the cooperation strategy met again early next year.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter