Both Bangkok Post and The Nation, the two Thai big newspapers, have reported that Vietnam has become the biggest rice exporter in the world in the first six months of 2012.

The newspapers, quoting the figures released the Thai Ministry of Trade as saying that by October 9, Vietnam had exported 5.9 million tons. Meanwhile, India had sold 5.6 million tons, and Thailand 5.2 million tons.

As such, Thailand, which always held the No. 1 position in rice exports, has fallen to the third grade in terms of quantity.

However, the third biggest rice exporter in the world has the highest export turnover in the world.

At present, one ton of five percent broken white rice from Thailand is sold at 570 dollars per ton, while Vietnam’s rice is sold at 490 dollars and India 460 dollars, according to Doanh Nhan Saigon newspaper. The high prices have helped Thailand stay firmly as the leading rice exporter in the world with the total revenue of 3.5 billion dollars.

Vietnam, with approximately 6 million tons of rice exports, earned 2.45 billion dollars, ranks the second in terms of revenue, followed by India with 2.29 billion dollars in revenue.

Tikhumporn Natvaratat, a high ranking official of the Thai Ministry of Trade, said on local newspapers that though Thailand now ranks the third in rice export volume, it still ranks the first in terms of rice quality and export value.

Being sure of himself, the official also said that Thailand would later regain its Number 1 position in terms of rice export volume.

Meanwhile, according to the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), Vietnam’s rice exports may reach 7.5 million tons, an increase of four percent over the last year.

Analysts have warned that the No. 1 position of Vietnam may be threatened by India which has become a redoubtable rival. According to the international rice research institute, India’s rice export volume may reach 7 million tons in the time to come (the volume was 2.8 million tons in 2010-2011).

India is the country with the second biggest rice growing area in the world, just to China. Like Vietnam, India’s rice exports have been increasing rapidly because of the new rice policy of the Thai government, under which farmers can sell rice at higher prices to get higher profits. Indian rice has become more competitive with the export price lower by 100 dollars per ton than Thai rice.

Commenting about the competition of the three big guys in the rice market, the Asian Development Bank ADB still believes that Thailand would be the leading rice exporter in the next decade.

Nong nghiep Vietnam newspaper has quoted Truong Thanh Phong, VFA’s Chair, as saying that by the end of October, Vietnamese enterprises had exported 7.6 million tons of rice so far, and all the contracts must be fulfilled this year.

Phong said that if everything goes as planned, Vietnam would export 7.7 million tons of rice by the end of the year. By the end of October, Vietnamese exporters had delivered 6.4 million tons, while 1.6 million tons has still been in enterprises’ stocks, which means that the goal of 7.7 million tons is within reach.

Experts say that with the average export price of 443.5 dollars per ton, Vietnamese exporters only can break even or make very little profit.

By Thu Uyen - VietNamNet Bridge - November 6, 2012