Exporters seek to regain market share
Thailand plans to snatch back its market share for premium-grade white rice by exporting more to its traditional markets, including Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian countries.
Charoen Laothammatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said Thailand's market share for the segment has hovered around 40% the past few years.
It used to control 90% in the past, leading the association to work closely with the Commerce Ministry on more proactive marketing to regain market share.
"We aim to dominate up to 70% of market share in the premium-grade white rice market this year, particularly in Hong Kong, where most importers shifted to buy from Vietnam instead of Thailand," said Mr Charoen.
Premium-grade Thai white rice, known as hom mali, has been strongly promoted over the past decade to encourage exporters to shift and penetrate the high-end niche market as the lower-end segment was eroded by increasing exports from Vietnam, India and Cambodia.
Thai premium-grade rice exports reached a high of 300,000 tonnes worth 50 billion baht several years ago, but controversial government rice-buying schemes caused the industry to collapse.
However, the industry is expected to bounce back as prices rebound based on stronger demand and because Thailand cleared its state rice inventories.
The price of Thai premium-grade white rice was quoted at US$750-$800 a tonne. That is around $200 a tonne higher than the common-grade white rice offered by Vietnam, a major competitor.
To claim a higher market share and export more premium-grade rice, Thailand held an event to attract more than 200 importers from 25 countries this week, allowing them to observe Thai rice fields and the quality of the rice as well as to match importers with exporters.
The event was expected to create buying demand worth nearly 600 million baht and could encourage importers to place long-term contracts that would boost Thai rice exports.
The association expects hefty demand to push 2017 rice exports to 10.8-11 million tonnes, possibly outpacing the previous record of 10.9 million tonnes reached in 2014.
Thailand is forecast to produce around 25 million tonnes of rice from the main 2017/18 crop, which is due to be harvested this month.
Another 7-8 million tonnes of paddy is estimated to come from the second crop, mostly in well-irrigated areas in the central region, bringing the total to 32 million tonnes for the 2017/18 season.