Thailand’s paddy politics threatens rice trade – Feature

Bangkok – Four and a half decades ago, Myanmar, also known as Burma, was the world’s leading rice exporter. A military coup in 1962 followed by the introduction of socialism swiftly stifled free trade in Myanmar, allowing neighboring Thailand to take the top rice-exporter slot, which it has held ever since.
But populist polices in Thailand’s rice fields are slowly undermining its leading role in the trade.
Thailand is arguably unique in Asia. The country produces more than 20 million tons of rice per year, of which 10 million tons are consumed domestically. The remainder is exported.
“We grow rice for business,” said Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the 90-year-old Thai Rice Exporters Association. “We are not like other countries that grow rice because they want to be self-sufficient in food and just export the surplus.”
There are more than 200 members in the association, plus 50 to 60 other exporters who operate freely on the market.
Business has been good. Last year, during the so-called food crisis when India and Vietnam slapped bans on their own rice exports, Thailand shipped more than 10 million tons, earning the kingdom 200 billion baht (5.6 billion dollars). Continue reading “Thailand’s paddy politics threatens rice trade – Feature”