Rice trade zone to be set up in East

The Department of Foreign Trade plans to set up a "rice trade zone" project in the East to process Cambodian rice for export to other countries.

Tikhumporn Natvaratat, deputy director-general of the department, said his organisation plans to implement the project in Chanthaburi, Trat, Sa Kaeo and Chachoengsao provinces.

The department is yet to decide if the trade zone should be centred in one of the provinces or cover all of them.

The department will also decide on the types of rice that Thailand would import from Cambodia to process for export to other countries, with paddy and brown rice among the options being considered.

"If Thailand exports the rice to the European Union, it may benefit from the privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences that the EU offers to Cambodia because the origin of the rice is Cambodia," Mr Tikhumporn said.

"Consequently Thailand can boost its competitiveness and benefit from by-products from rice milling including bran and broken rice that can be sold."

He said the authorities would have to convince Thai rice farmers that the project would not have any negative impact on them.

He said it would actually help by preventing the illicit import of Cambodian rice to cash in on the government's rice pledging scheme for Thai farmers.

Mr Tikhumporn said his department would work out measures to keep the imported Cambodian rice from affecting the local rice market.

He said the trucks that carry imported rice may be equipped with tracking devices.

He said Thailand might initially import 100-1,000 tonnes of rice from Cambodia for the export project.

Meanwhile, a source at Government House said the Commerce Ministry will ask the cabinet tomorrow to amend a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on rice trade between the Thai and Bangladeshi governments.

The present MoU requires Bangladesh to import up to 1 million tonnes of parboiled rice from Thailand from last year to this year but the change will extend the deadline to import the rice to 2016.

Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, has dismissed the Thai-Bangladeshi MoU, saying exports to Dhaka have not exceeded 100,000 tonnes of parboiled rice since the tenure of the previous Democrat-led administration.

"Anyone can sign an MoU. This signing is a PR activity to claim that Thailand can sell rice but actually it cannot," he said.

"Bangladesh mainly imports Indian rice which is much cheaper than Thai rice. The parboiled rice of India is priced at US$440 per tonne (12,900 baht) but that of Thailand is at US$560."

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