Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Daily in Bangkok last week that stronger cooperation in rice trade will help lift prices and protect their prestige.

The important thing is that both sides need to shake hands to keep rice prices, quality and volume, he remarked, explaining that rice growers of the countries and consumers will benefit from the bilateral cooperation.

Thailand over the past time has restricted rice export volume which creates favorable conditions for Vietnam to become the world’s biggest rice supplier. However, according to Vijavat, no matter what the leading position belongs to either Vietnam or Thailand, rice export always remains vital to farmers of the two countries.

“The prime ministers of Vietnam and Thailand have recently shared the same voice over the bilateral cooperation, and personally I think that is a big goal of both sides in the near future,” Vijavat noted.

Regarding the reason why Thailand has lost the top rice export position to Vietnam in terms of volume, Vijavat said the change was due to objective reasons, not Thailand’s intention. This year seems promising to Thailand and we will strive to gain strong growth in rice export again, he said.

“Given unfavorable climate conditions and flooding, last year we were unable to achieve the target as expected. Besides, the Thai Government wants to focus on quality of rice, especially export products, and considers quality and prices as the nation’s leading goals,” he said.

Similarly, Nitivadee Manitkul, director of Thailand’s Division of Economic Relations and Cooperation, also insisted on the necessity for cooperation between Vietnam and Thailand in rice export.

Nitivadee said Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand are holding over 50% of the world’s rice trade. Therefore, she noted, Vietnam and Thailand should carry out further cooperation to have prices and quality of rice stabilized.

Thailand and Vietnam have the same agricultural foundation and share similar rice varieties with increasingly-improved quality, she told the Daily. Both sides should have more specific cooperation to map out a strategy for the rice industry in the coming time, she added.

Like Vietnam, besides boosting industrial and tourism development, Thailand is seeking ways to develop its agriculture as the majority of Thai people have still lived on farming. Food is the most important issue of all nations in the near future, therefore besides rice Vietnam and Thailand can join hands to help farmers increase production of coffee, rubber and fruits, she said.

“We are proposing the Government make more cooperation with Vietnam for other farm produce. The hi-tech agricultural cooperation between the nations is still being discussed and there may be more proposals for cooperation,” she added.

By Hong Phuc - The Saigon Times Daily - January 29,2013

Delta farmers in rice price dilemma

CAN THO – While rice farmers in the Mekong Delta are scraping by on low profits despite exports hitting a record high last year, the authorities are having a hard time seeking solutions to prevent domestic rice price drops in the 2012-2013 winter-spring crop.

Pham Van Du, deputy head of the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the nation’s total rice farming area was over 7.7 million hectares in 2012, up 117,000 hectares over 2011.

The total rice output was nearly 44 million tons, a growth of 1.6 million tons year-on-year, said Du at a review conference for rice production held in Kien Giang last Friday.

However, rice growers earned significantly lower profits last year. According to rice farmers in Dong Thap’s Thap Muoi District, their profits dwindled by VND5-8 million per hectare against 2011.

Although the rice export volume hit a record high of 7.72 million tons in 2012, 630,000 tons higher than 2011, the export turnover dropped US$50 million year-on-year, standing at US$3.45 billion. The Vietnam Food Association (VFA) ascribed the decline in rice export turnover to poor export prices, which were US$50 per ton lower than in 2011.

Rice sales in the local market are forecast to be more difficult in 2013 as domestic prices have been falling since the year’s beginning.

In the Mekong Delta, rice prices ranged from VND4,400 to VND5,200 per kilo at the start of the month, but now they are VND4,100-4,800 a kilo.

In this context, it is necessary to find a way to prevent rice prices from dropping further when the 2012-2013 winter-spring crop is about to enter its peak harvest season. Still, the agricultural authorities are struggling to figure out an effective solution.

Du suggested the program for purchasing rice for temporary storage should be carried out quickly to remove difficulties for farmers. It is expected that some 1.5-2 million tons of rice will be bought in this winter-spring crop.

The agriculture ministry last year put up the draft regulation on temporary rice storage for comments, intending to pilot it in An Giang, Kien Giang, Dong Thap and Tra Vinh this year. However, as farming households still have many problems stockpiling rice, VFA members will continue to purchase rice for temporary storage.

Although the official decision has not been made, it is likely that VFA will be in charge of buying the winter-spring rice for temporary storage. The association has already drawn up a plan for this, said Du.

“So far, VFA has always been in charge of temporary rice storage and I think they have done it well,” he said.

“Currently, there is no better mechanism for rice stockpiling, so the old mechanism will continue to be applied and gradually perfected,” he told the Daily.

By Trung Chanh - The Saigon Times Daily - January 29,2013