Thailand, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter after India, is on track to post its highest export volume in four years as importing countries boost purchases to replenish inventories and curb food inflation.
Exports of rice could climb to 8 million tonnes this year as weak baht improves competitiveness and countries such as China look to rebuild stocks ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, said Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary chairman of the Thai Rice Exporters Association. Shipments are likely to remain at similar levels next year, he said.
The figure was higher than Thailand’s original full-year export target of 7.5 million tonnes, which was already about 20% higher than in 2021.
Prices for basic foodstuffs such as wheat and cooking oil hit record highs this year after Russia invaded Ukraine and restricted supplies from the Black Sea. There has been a wave of food protectionism as governments restrict exports to lower prices. India is one of them, and that opens the door for Thailand.
Rice prices, in particular, are depressed relative to wheat, and some countries, such as Indonesia, may have switched from expensive wheat to cheaper rice to keep food costs in check.
Chookiat pointed out that Thailand’s strong rice exports reflect global food security concerns, also benefit from India’s policy of restricting exports, and Iraq’s return to the market. Iraq has become Thailand’s largest rice buyer, importing about 1.5 million tons. They previously stopped importing Thai rice since 2013 due to quality problems, and did not resume imports until last year.
Countries have been importing more rice to build inventories and drive down domestic prices, while the weak baht has also boosted competitiveness, Chookiat said.
Chookiat believes that Thailand’s rice exports are likely to remain at a similar level next year. As demand in Iraq should continue into next year, exports to Indonesia are also likely to increase, and Thailand is expected to have ample supply.