News / Economy

    Thailand’s Controversial Rice Policy Helps Neighbors’ Exports

    A Thai vendor weighs a bag of rice at a market in central Bangkok, July 26, 2013.
    A Thai vendor weighs a bag of rice at a market in central Bangkok, July 26, 2013.
    Ron Corben
    The Thailand government is pressing ahead with a rice price support scheme despite criticism over financial losses, concerns over rice quality and falling rice export sales.  The scheme is possibly helping rival exporters, especially Vietnam and Burma.
     
    The rice program was a keystone of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s electoral success in 2011 and was hugely popular among rice growers from rural areas that form the backbone of political support for her party.  
     
    Under the program the government buys paddy - or unmilled - rice at $480 a metric ton.  Private sector traders said this translates into export prices for milled rice of up to $750 a ton - well above the market of $400 for similar grades.  
     
    That means to sell rice for export, the government needs to take a loss.
     
    Thai Rice Exporters Association honorary president, Vichai Sriprasert, estimated the losses from the program may reach some $19 billion, while at the same time curbing the volume of exported rice.
     
    “The announced aim of helping to raise the incomes of the poor - that was the announced objective. They tried this for two years - we export less and we get less income. High prices doesn’t mean bigger income it means smaller income. The farmers that benefit a lot from this scheme are the farmers in the central plains who have bigger acreage and bigger incomes already,” said Sriprasert.
     
    Despite concerns over the program’s cost and its benefit to mainly larger rice growers, Prime Minister Yingluck recently said the program is helping to alleviate poverty among poorer farmers and it will continue.
     
    Credit rating agency Moody’s warned the government the mounting financial losses from the scheme and other policies, are putting Thailand’s credit standing at risk. Critics also claim the scheme is open to rampant corruption.
     
    Thailand was the world’s leading rice exporter, but since has fallen behind India and Vietnam. Meanwhile Thai rice stocks, which are now too expensive to be sold, have soared to almost 18 million tons. Rogue traders from neighboring countries have smuggled an estimated one million tons of rice into Thailand to take advantage of the government buying program.
     
    Darren Cooper, an economist with the London-based International Grains Council, said Thailand’s policy has led to distortions in the international rice market.
     
    “Looking at thing in the totality the pledging scheme per se has caused a pretty strange market in the past couple of years. Certainly with rice out of Thailand trading at more than $150 [a ton] above comparable grade in Vietnam, of course it’s going to be attractive for people to try and smuggle rice from different origins into it. So certainly it’s having a distorting effect,” Cooper said.
     
    Cooper said international traders are now concerned over when Thai authorities plan to release their massive rice stocks onto the market. This, he said, will have a “significant downward pressure” on prices.
     
    But Sam Mohanty, an economist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), said the program appears to have the unintended effect of helping other exporters boost production.  “I’m arguing that if the Thai program continues for the next few years in fact it’s going to help Myanmar [Burma] to establish themselves as exporters," said Mohanty. "It will give them some of the market sales where Thai is going to lose out. So it’s definitely better for other competing exporters.”

    India’s return to the global market pushed global rice prices lower while traditional rice importers such as Indonesia and the Philippines have also enjoyed good crops, further keeping prices low. The cheap prices have meant good news for consumers, but additional challenges for the Thai government, which must figure out a way to unload its growing stockpile of rice before it spoils.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8926
    JPY
    USD
    116.68
    GBP
    USD
    0.6871
    CAD
    USD
    1.3751
    INR
    USD
    67.653

    Rates may not be current.