Thailand should see greater opportunities to export rice in the second half of the year as countries that import are rushing to stock up on concerns about drought.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said it is too early to determine whether the El Niño phenomenon or drought would affect the country's rice production, as it depends on the level of rainfall from July to September.
"Everyone is concerned, as the Meteorological Department predicted rainfall this year would be 5-6% lower than average, which could affect rice production," said Mr Chookiat.
He said the region that cultivates the most paddy rice for the annual main crop is the Northeast, which is reliant on rainfall for cultivation.
Under normal circumstances, annual main crop paddy rice production is 24 million tonnes, with 8 million tonnes produced during off-season periods. Mr Chookiat said off-season production should be fine as there is adequate water supply for irrigation during this period.
"This drought concern extends throughout Asia, affecting major rice-producing and exporting countries such as Vietnam, India and China," he said.
"Importing countries are significantly accelerating rice purchases because of this concern. The Philippines, Indonesia and China have placed large rice orders, with the Philippines and China buying large quantities from Vietnam."
Vietnam's rice exports totalled 4 million tonnes in the first five months of this year, while Thailand exported 3.4 million tonnes during the period.
Mr Chookiat said Vietnam could potentially export 7.5 million tonnes of rice this year, but may encounter a shortage in the second half.
This could present an opportunity for Thailand to increase its shipments to more than 8 million tonnes this year, surpassing its target of 7.5 million tonnes.
The price of Vietnamese 5% broken rice is priced at US$500 per tonne, while Thai rice is $495 per tonne.