Rice exports probably eased in February with the onset of the low season and the baht's continued strength after a surge to nearly 1 million tonnes in January.
Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said February rice shipments are estimated at 800,000 tonnes, down from about 1 million tonnes in the year-earlier February.
He cited volatile foreign exchange and long holidays during the Chinese New Year as holding down exports.
According to Mr Charoen, the strong baht has become an obstacle to Thai rice shipments, as the firmer local currency makes Thai rice, notably hom mali fragrant rice, less competitive.
Even worse, limited hom mali supply in the market kept Thai premium rice prices at a relatively high US$1,135 (35,687 baht) a tonne as of Feb 28, against $650 a tonne for Vietnamese aromatic grains and $880 a tonne for comparable Cambodian rice.
The association reported yesterday that Thailand shipped a total of 961,859 tonnes with a value of 15.39 billion baht in January, up 16.8% and 24.9% respectively from the same month last year.
On a monthly basis, customs-cleared shipments fell by 16.7% from 1.15 million tonnes in December, with export values shrinking 13.8% from 17.87 billion baht.
According to the association, of the total rice exports in January, white rice made up 440,340 tonnes, up 8.7% from the same month of last year; parboiled rice was 308,999 tonnes, up 112.4% year-on-year; premium hom mali was 146,822 tonnes, down 28.1%; glutinous rice was 48,032 tonnes, down 12%; and jasmine rice was 17,667 tonnes, up 27.6%.
Mr Charoen forecasts rice exports of 4-4.5 million tonnes in the first half of 2018, averaging 800,000 tonnes a month.
Last year, Thailand exported a record 11.6 million tonnes of milled rice, up 17.4% from the prior year, fetching 174.50 billion baht, up 12.8%.
The top five importers of Thai rice were Benin, China, South Africa, Cameroon and the US.
The association in January predicted that Thailand's rice exports would dip to 9.5 million tonnes this year because of depleted state rice stocks and lower hom mali rice output because of heavy rains in many areas.