Rice exports set to hit record high from disasters
The Commerce Ministry expects rice exports this year to reach 11 million tonnes, the highest ever, largely from fresh demand from disaster-hit countries during the second half.
The Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said the ministry had revised up its earlier prediction of 10 million tonnes as several countries had approached Thailand for substantial amounts of rice.
Other traditional buyers are also seeking to buy more rice to meet festive demand during the year-end period, while some clients that have halted purchases over the past few years are returning to replenish their stocks, she said.
"Demand for rice is increasing globally, particularly as Thailand's stockpile is diminishing, signalling there is no certainty of rice availability during the year-end period, which is encouraging buyers to rush to meet their domestic rice demand," said Ms Apiradi.
The forecast of 11 million tonnes is well above the 9.9 million tonnes exported in 2016 and 9.8 million tonnes in 2015, and slightly edges out the 2014 record high of 10.9 million tonnes.
Ms Apiradi said the value of rice export is also expected to be higher this year as Thai rice prices are rising due to strong demand due to falling supply and stockpile.
The benchmark Thai 5% white rice is currently quoted at US$410 per tonne, up from $360 a tonne early this year, and $350 a tonne in the same period last year.
The government's completion of the gradual release of the massive rice stockpile of more than 18 million tonnes has reduced pressure on Thai rice prices, allowing free market prices to prevail.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka recently approached Thailand for an urgent purchase of 400,000 tonnes of rice to replenish falling stocks.
The two countries, seeking for 200,000 tonnes of rice each, have been hit by severe droughts and flooding in recent years, substantially damaging crop yields and forcing them to approach Thailand, which is not among their regular suppliers.
Ms Apiradi said the recent flooding in the Northeast has caused crop damage that is relatively small compared with the 26 million tonnes of paddy that will be harvested.