Illustrative image (Source: AFPVNA)

Bangkok (VNA) - Thai rice exporters are fretting over their prospects this year as China looks set to ramp up its rice shipments, notably to Africa.

The Bangkok Post on June 12 quoted Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association as saying that China produces an estimated 120 million tonnes of rice each year and is likely to raise exports to 3 million tonnes of aged grains this year from 1.5-2 million tonnes last year.

Africa is a potential target market for China now that consumers there are in the habit of eating aged rice, he said.

China’s 5 percent white rice is quoted at 300 USD a tonne, while similar grains from Thailand are quoted at 390 USD, those from Vietnam at 360 USD and those from India at 370 USD.

Chinese rice is very cheap compared with others, said Chookiat, adding that Thailand has run out of stocks of aged rice.

Thai rice shipments totalled 11.09 million tonnes last year, down 5 percent from 11.67 million in 2017 but greater than 2016's 9.91 million.

The value of rice exports rose 8.3 percent last year to 5.61 billion USD from 5.18 billion USD in 2017 and 4.40 billion USD in 2016. Rice export prices averaged 507 USD per tonne last year, up 14.1 percent from 2017.

For the whole of 2019, rice exporters forecast Thai shipments of 9.5 million tonnes, or 500,000 tonnes shy of the Commerce Ministry’s projection.

According to Chookiat, China has continued to develop rice varieties with higher yields, meaning the country could expand its exports of the grain to other Asian countries in the future at relatively low prices.

As long as China is capable of exporting its grains to Asia, especially to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, Thailand’s rice market will be hit the hardest, Chookiat said.

The official said the new government should promote development of new rice varieties and support more R&D to add value to Thai rice and reduce production costs for farmers.-VNA