Rice Exports From Thailand Drop to Decade Low, Losing Top Spot

Rice exports from Thailand plunged 37 percent last year to the lowest in more than a decade, dethroning the Southeast Asian nation as the largest shipper.

The country sold 6.73 million metric tons with a value of $4.63 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said in an e-mailed statement today. That compares with 10.7 million tons, worth $6.43 billion a year earlier, data showed. Shipments fell to the lowest since 2000 when the country exported 6.55 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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

Thai rice exports declined after the government introduced a price support program in October 2011, buying 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 tons in the 2012-2013 season, the USDA estimates.

The government bought 9 million tons of unmilled rice and expects to purchase as much as 11 million tons this harvest, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said today. The strengthening baht has made exports “quite difficult,” he told reporters. The baht touched 29.66 per dollar on Jan. 21, the strongest level since August 2011.

The total cost of the support program 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 percent of gross domestic product in the previous year, according to the World Bank. Losses are estimated at about 115 billion baht last year and 140 billion this year, it said in December.

To contact the reporters on this story: Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok at ssuwannakij@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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