Rice export competition tightens

Rice export competition tightens

Major buyers to downshift next year as selling countries boost efforts

Workers sort rice sacks at a warehouse in Pathum Thani. Thailand is forecast to be the No.2 rice exporter in 2019, trailing India.
Workers sort rice sacks at a warehouse in Pathum Thani. Thailand is forecast to be the No.2 rice exporter in 2019, trailing India.

Thailand's rice exporters can expect fiercer competition next year as major buying nations reduce purchases and rice-exporting countries beef up their shipments.

Charoen Laothammatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said India is forecast to retain leadership in global rice exports in 2019, followed by Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Myanmar and the US.

China, he said, is also expected to become a key player in the world rice market in the year to come, given the mainland's massive stockpiles.

"This year, the Philippines and Indonesia have imported a lot to secure their rice consumption adequacy and stave off higher rice prices," Mr Charoen said. "Indonesia is estimated to import no less than 3 million tonnes this year, while the Philippines' rice imports are expected to exceed 2.5 million tonnes because of bad weather. We expect the two countries to cool down their rice purchases next year."

According to Mr Charoen, China is estimated to control huge rice stocks of as much as 96 million tonnes this year, up 1.6% from 94.5 million tonnes in 2017.

China also exported a lot of old white rice and parboiled rice from its stock to the African market in the first nine months of the year at a price of US$325 a tonne, compared with $329 a tonne for Thai parboiled rice.

In the first nine months, Thai's parboiled rice shipments fell by 10.9% year-on-year to 1.95 million tonnes.

"If China increases export volume in 2019, the mainland will become one of Thailand's key competitors," Mr Charoen said.

According to the US Agriculture Department, India will ship about 13 million tonnes in 2019, followed by Thailand (11 million), Vietnam (7 million), Pakistan (4.3 million), Myanmar (3 million), the US (3.2 million), China (1.9 million) and Cambodia (1.3 million).

But the association predicts Thai rice outbound shipments to stay at about 10 million tonnes after shipping 11 million tonnes this year, Mr Charoen said.

Of the total, 2.5 million tonnes are expected to be Thai fragrant rice, 2.5 million tonnes parboiled rice and 5 million tonnes white rice and glutinous rice.

As of Oct 23, Thailand had shipped 8.74 million tonnes, up 0.1% from the same period last year.

According to Mr Charoen, Thailand's rice industry has lacked development of rice varieties over the past 10 years, with exports relying heavily on three grains: white rice, hom mali fragrant jasmine rice and glutinous rice.

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