Exporters seek Iraq deal

Exporters seek Iraq deal

Rice exporters have urged the government to revive government-to-government (G2G) rice deals with Iraq, which suspended its rice purchases from Thailand on concerns about quality in 2016.

Charoen Laothammatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the government should speed up its efforts to regain the confidence of Iraq concerning Thai rice. A deal with the Iraqi government would pave the way for other purchases by Iraqi buyers, he said.

Iraq used to buy 700,000-800,000 tonnes a year during 2011-13, dropping to 111,500 in 2014 and 83,350 in 2015.

Iraq has not bought any Thai rice since 2016, as the country was concerned after finding that the 100% white rice delivered from Thailand during the Yingluck Shinawatra government was of poor quality.

In 2018, the Iraq Grain Board of the Trade Ministry imported 735,516 tonnes of rice, mainly from Vietnam, Uruguay, the US, Argentina and Paraguay.

Last year Iraq imported 320,235 tonnes from Vietnam, followed by 185,707 tonnes from Uruguay, 126,131 tonnes from the US, 63,081 tonnes from Argentina and 30,362 tonnes from Paraguay.

"A G2G deal with certified quality will help restore Iraq's trust, and the private sector can follow up to secure purchase orders later," Mr Charoen said.

He urged the commerce minister to visit Japan and the Philippines to boost rice exports.

Mr Charoen also suggested the government focus more on development of rice seeds to increase the country's competitiveness and exports. The government should promote more soft-textured rice seeds rather than the hard-textured ones pushed now, he said.

The association is maintaining its rice export forecast at 9 million tonnes this year.

"With shipments constantly declining since January, our best performance would be 9 million tonnes this year," Mr Charoen said.

The target is about 20% less than the 11.2 million tonnes in 2018.

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