A rice-trader source said Vietnam would gain export opportunities as the price of Thai rice price surged under the government programme.

"As the world's No 2 rice exporter, Vietnam will not only enjoy higher export income because of higher rice prices in the market, but also high export volume, as their price will be much lower than the Thai rice price," the source said.

The high pledged price of Bt15,000 a tonne of paddy rice will raise the export price above US$800 a tonne from the current $630, while the price of Vietnamese rice will increase from $550 to only $700 a tonne. The price gap will encourage importers to purchase more Vietnamese rice, even though its price also increased, the source said.

Korbsook Iamsuri, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said Vietnam had projected higher rice export next year as a result of the Thai pledging project. However, Hanoi is also committed to not increasing export volume significantly, concerned about domestic consumption and inflation.

After the eighth meeting between Thailand and Vietnam on rice cooperation in Chiang Mai yesterday, she said the two countries would exchange information to prevent price-cutting and to develop rice production. They also agreed to tighten cooperation with other members of the Asean Economic Community.

"This agreement will ensure sustainable growth in rice exports, because Thailand and Vietnam are the world's biggest rice suppliers. Rice prices will be more stable, because each country will stop undercutting prices," Korbsook said.

Truong Thanh Phong, president of the Vietnam Food Association, expects that his country will export about 6.5 million to 7 million tonnes of rice next year.

Vietnam is projected to achieve 41.6 million tonnes of paddy production this year. Of that, 27.6 million tonnes would be for domestic consumption, and 14 million tonnes to be processed for export.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry has set up a special team to investigate any lack of transparency in the pledging project. The task force under the Department of Special Investigation and the ministry will check rice stockpiles.

The ministry reported than so far, 651 millers in 50 provinces had applied to participate in the pledging scheme. The government is confident that it will have enough space to stock rice under the scheme, which is scheduled to start on October 7.

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai - The Nation (.th) - September 17, 2011