New campaign promotes premium grade rice
The Commerce Ministry is planning a new campaign called "Think Rice: Think Thailand", aimed at promoting the export of premium-grade rice instead of focusing on commodity grades, says Deputy Commerce Minister Chutima Bunyapraphasara.
She said the scheme is due to kick off in 2018 as a pilot project to raise the export volume of premium-grade rice by around 200,000 tonnes within six months to one year.
Premium-grade Thai rice includes hom mali, or fragrant rice, and coloured rice such as violet-hued riceberry, which is known for its specific health benefits, said Ms Chutima.
"We aim to penetrate new markets with premium-grade rice. The ministry will start the campaign in focused markets, introducing major premium-grade rice brands to large importers," she said.
After experiencing a sharp fall in exports after the Yingluck government's rice pledging scheme a few years ago, the Thai rice market is starting to recover. Thailand is one of the world's top three exporters, with annual shipments of 9-10 million tonnes. Of the total annual exports, 70% is commodity-grade and the rest is hom mali, while some special grades such as riceberry make up a very small amount.
Ms Chutima said the ministry will work with the Agriculture Ministry to prepare plantation areas to help control production and avoid oversupply, as well as create new marketing channels and campaigns to promote Thai rice abroad.
The Commerce Ministry also plans to revive government-to-government (G-to-G) rice sales, which are expected to increase annual rice exports substantially.
She said the government aims to revive rice trade talks with some traditional buyers such as China, Iran and Nigeria, which, combined used to import 2-3 million tonnes of Thai rice per year via G-to-G contracts.
But the Yingluck administration's rice pledging scheme pushed up the price of Thai rice, forcing those buyers to switch to cheaper sources, in particular grains from Vietnam.
Thailand has exported 10.3 million tonnes of rice this year, up 16.3% year-on-year, according to Commerce Ministry data.
The country is forecast to export 9.5 million tonnes in 2018 as a stronger baht could trim sales.