News / Economy

    Thai Rice to Flood Global Markets as Subsidy Ends

    Kittisak Ratanawarahal, chairman of the Northern Farmers Network, stands in warehouse of rotten rice abandoned ten years ago in Phichit province under price-support scheme by then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra Feb. 6, 2014.
    Kittisak Ratanawarahal, chairman of the Northern Farmers Network, stands in warehouse of rotten rice abandoned ten years ago in Phichit province under price-support scheme by then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra Feb. 6, 2014.
    Reuters
    Millions of tons of Thai rice are set to flood into already oversupplied international markets when the government's controversial subsidy scheme grinds to a halt later this month.

    The country's caretaker government last week said it did not have the power to renew the program, which has paid farmers in one of the world's top exporters of rice nearly double market rates and is due to expire at month-end.

    That will force farmers to offload the March harvest into a market currently dominated by India and Vietnam. With Bangkok already shifting grain from record government stockpiles, the sales threaten to worsen a supply glut that has dragged on international prices.

    While many rice farmers are expected to remain loyal to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who swept to power in 2011 on the back of rural votes generated in part by the subsidies, a slump in prices that could be blamed on her leadership would erode her support base and be another blow for her embattled government.

    The bulk of the around 5 million tons of milled grain that is expected to be produced from next month's crop, equivalent to more than 10 percent of all rice traded globally last year, is likely to be sold to exporters as farmers and millers have limited capacity to hold back stocks.

    "It's like farmers are being set adrift. We will have to sell rice to millers at prices lower than what we got in the past," said Boonserm Thongsook, a farmer in the province of Suphan Buri, around 40 km north of Bangkok.

    "I may not vote for Yingluck again as she ignores us. The scheme is about to end and she does nothing to support us."

    The subsidy program has been mired in allegations of corruption and faced growing losses, becoming a target of a Bangkok-based protest movement bent on ousting Yingluck and the caretaker government she has led since December.

    Unrest is spreading to her party's natural supporters in the countryside, where many farmers have gone unpaid for their rice for months as the program scrambles for funding.

    Hundreds of unpaid Thai rice farmers this week swarmed around Yingluck's temporary office and threatened to storm the building.

    Any possible reintroduction of the rice-buying scheme would be off the cards until the completion of disrupted elections, which the country's Election Commission said was unlikely until late April.

    Most market participants expect some sort of program to re-emerge no matter who wins at the polls, though it is likely to be far less generous than the current scheme. Thailand has had different forms of rice support scheme for around three decades.

    "From the world market's point of view, the end of the scheme could be bearish because it implies a potentially large boost to world export availability," said Darren Cooper, senior economist with trade body the International Grains Council in London.

    Global glut

    Traders and officials said Thai rice prices, which have already dropped 14 percent since January, won't fall much further as they are already cheaper than competing varieties.

    "Exporters will not offer prices that are lower than their costs of production," said Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association.

    Thai exporters said prices could fall to $350 ($1 = 32.4 baht) a ton for the benchmark 5-percent broken variety, the lowest in seven years, from $375 a ton currently offered on a free on board basis.

    That compares with $410 a ton being quoted for similar varieties in top exporter India and $400 a ton in No.2 seller Vietnam.

    Thailand paid farmers 15,000 baht ($463) per ton of paddy under the intervention scheme that started in October 2011, compared to the 8,000-9,000 baht per ton they can expect in the open market this year.

    Most Thai farmers live in poor and remote areas that lack access to large storage silos, meaning they have little opportunity to hold back rice in hope that prices will climb in future.

    As well as sales from the upcoming harvest, authorities will open a tender this week to sell 500,000 tons of rice from state warehouses, after a previous 400,000-ton offering attracted healthy interest.

    Extra supply from Thailand comes as India is looking to shrink reserves swollen after bountiful monsoon rains and Vietnam starts to harvest the highest-yielding of its three annual crops.

    The world's top rice buyers in Southeast Asia and Africa, who have stayed out of the market since January, are likely to make the most of their purchases from Thailand, hitting Indian and Vietnamese exports.

    "Demand in the start of the first quarter has been subdued but we expect buyers to be back in the market in March or April," said a Singapore-based trader, who declined to be named.

    "They will any day prefer Thai rice over other origins even if the prices are at par."

    Thailand, which was the world's top exporter of rice until Yingluck's intervention scheme derailed shipments in 2011, is known for its high quality grains.

    Vietnam has said it expects its rice exports in January-March to decline by a quarter with African buyers switching to cheaper Thai cargoes.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8700
    JPY
    USD
    106.56
    GBP
    USD
    0.6808
    CAD
    USD
    1.2518
    INR
    USD
    66.404

    Rates may not be current.