The World Rice Conference has declared Thailand's fragrant Hom Mali variety the world's best rice, maintaining Thailand's number one position after several years of lower rice quality due to a previous rice-pledging scheme.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said that the conference in Macau on Wednesday declared the Hom Mali 105 variety the world's best rice in 2017, while the second and third rankings went to Cambodian and Vietnam.
He said the referees were chefs from hotels in Macau, and the criteria were the taste and shape of the rice grain.
It was the second consecutive year that Thailand's fragrant rice won the championship. It had lost the title to Myanmar in 2011, Cambodia in 2012-2013 and the US in 2015.
Winning the title again this year would boost Thai rice revenues, Mr Chookiat said, as it would increase both global demand and prices.
He added the price of Thai Hom Mali rice was already much higher than of Cambodian and Vietnamese varieties, with Thai Hom Mali quoted at US$850 a tonne, compared to Cambodia's at $750 and Vietnam's at $550.
Over the past four years, the price of Cambodian rice approached the Thai price, Mr Chookiat said, as Cambodian rice was judged the world's best rice in 2012 and 2013.
This year's contest involved 21 rice varieties from rice-producing countries. Thailand nominated three varieties.
"Thailand lost the championship for four years because the quality of Thai rice dropped due to the rushed rice cultivation that resulted from a previous pledging scheme that accepted every grain. We're champions again because we're emphasising rice quality once more," Mr Chookiat said.
He encouraged the government to promote organic rice cultivation, which he said would bring back the naturally fragrant Hom Mali rice of the past, when paddy fields were not contaminated with chemicals.