Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) fellows are urging the government to establish a Rice Market Development Institute to enhance scientific research, disseminate credible information to farmers and entrepreneurs and improve the competitiveness of Thai rice cultivation.
Nipon Poapongsakorn, a distinguished fellow at the TDRI, said a finalised proposal will be submitted to the Commerce Ministry after discussions at a seminar yesterday. It wants the ministry to forward the proposal to the National Rice Policy Committee and the cabinet for deliberation.
"We prefer this institute is established during this government's tenure because elected governments are interested in subsidies, and there would be no interest in long-term research development," he said.
Thailand is losing its market share in the global rice market, especially for high-quality rice, because of fierce competition from Vietnam, which offers a variety of rice types at a lower price than Thailand, said Mr Nipon.
He said Thai rice farmers and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs had a hard time receiving credible rice market information, hindering their decision-making. A lack of public research on the rice market also hurts Thai rice competitiveness.
"Thailand has never had any research on rice marketing and there is no major programme dedicated to rice research. If research on how chemistry can induce softness into different rice types is successful, it would boost sales," said Mr Nipon.
He said the institute could disseminate information on rice output, market demand, climate forecast and laws in importing and exporting countries. It could also connect private and public players both domestically and overseas, said Mr Nipon.
The institute should be set up as a foundation to prevent political interference and foster flexible management, he said, citing the Thai Tapioca Development Institute as an example. Mr Nipon said it should be chaired by the commerce permanent secretary to facilitate cooperation with the bureaucracy and receive government funding for its first six years, after which it should be self-sufficient.
He envisions a committee of seven members representing relevant sectors.
A study concluded creating such an institute would incur medium-term benefits estimated at 16.8 billion baht compared with investment capital of 2 billion baht over the initial six years, said Asst Prof Isriya Bunyasiri of the agricultural and resource economics department of Kasetsart University.
Rice marketing research is not meant to be used to compete with Thailand's rice producers, but rather for genetic research and processing procedures to improve the quality of exports, increasing Thailand's rice market share, she said.
Political interference in Thai public entities dictates the institute must be an independent organisation, said Mr Nipon.