Thailand rice exports hit 12-year low
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Thailand rice exports hit 12-year low

Rice exports from Thailand plunged 37 per cent last year to the lowest in more than a decade, plunging the nation from best in the world to third place.

Thailand sold 6.73 million (metric) tonnes with a value of $4.63 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday.

That compares with 10.7 million tonnes, worth $6.43 billion a year earlier, data showed.

Thai rice export shipments fell to the lowest since 2000 when the country exported 6.55 million tonnes, according to figures kept by the US Department of Agriculture.

India became the largest supplier last year, selling 10.3 million tonnes, according to the USDA. Vietnam shipped 8 million tonnes, according to a report posted on the Vietnam's General Customs Department website on Jan 16.

Rice exports declined after the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra introduced a price support programme in October, 2011. The government now buys the grain from farmers above market rates to boost domestic prices and lift rural incomes.

Stockpiles in Thailand will climb to a record 11.7 million tonnes in the 2012-2013 season now under way, the USDA estimates.

The government bought 9 million tonnes of unmilled rice from farmers and expects to purchase as much as 11 million tonnes this current, main harvest, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said Wednesday.

The strengthening baht has made exports "quite difficult," he told reporters. The baht touched 29.66 per dollar on Monday, the strongest level since August 2011.

The total cost of the rice-purchase programme may be as much as 440 billion baht ($14.8 billion) in the 2012-2013 season, compared with 376 billion baht or around 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the previous year, according to the World Bank.

Losses are estimated at about 115 billion baht last year and 140 billion this year, the World Bank said in December.

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