Thailand’s packaged rice prices forecast to climb hinh anh 1Shelves at a Tesco Lotus store are left empty as consumers stock up on basic consumer goods and rice amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus early this month.(Photo:

Bangkok (VNA) – Thailand’s rice packers warn that packaged rice prices are likely to increase further after domestic rice prices rose by 20-30 percent since the start of the year, mostly due to drought and a sharp rise in demand amid of COVID-19 outbreak.

Somkiat Makayatorn, Honorary President of the Thai Rice Packers Association (TRPA), said the price of milled rice in the country, which is used as a raw material in packaged rice production, has risen to 15 THB per kilogramme from 12.50 THB in early January.

The prices of milled rice are expected to continue increasing until August or September before the release of the new harvest into the market, Somkiat said.

He said the worst drought in 40 years is responsible for farmers reporting a decrease of 1.5-2 million tonnes of milled off-season rice this year.

Somkiat said local prices of packaged rice have been capped since last year, with a 5kg package averaging 70-120 THB per pack for white rice and 160-250 THB per pack for hom mali rice.

Regarding consumers hoarding packaged rice, he insisted that Thailand will never face a rice shortage.

He said that despite the short- term demand surge, domestic rice consumption is expected to drop this year as foreign tourists veer away from Thailand.

Last year domestic rice consumption totalled 7.5 million tonnes, up 8 percent from the previous year, while Thailand's packaged rice market was worth 30 billion THB, a gain of 8-9 percent.

Chookiat Ophaswongse, Honorary President of the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA), said there are several foreign purchase orders, particularly for premium rice such as hom mali, from Hong Kong (China), Singapore, the US and Canada, as consumers worldwide have rushed to buy milled rice and dried food as the pandemic inspires panic hoarding.

Rice prices are expected to rise until the middle of the year as global consumers beef up their stockpiles, with China unlikely to rev up rice exports in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, Chookiat said.

Thailand is targeting to export 7.5 million tonnes of rice worth 4.2 billion USD in 2020./.