In a move to speed up its rice sales, the Thai government on February 13 put up 220,000 tonnes of its rice stocks on the Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand (AFET), drawing several interested potential buyers, mostly retailers and wholesalers, a local newspaper has said.

The Bangkok Post reported on Feb. 14 that rice sold via AFET for the second time this year would be mainly from the 2013-2014 season, with 5 percent white rice making up 167,000 tonnes from the state warehouses in Saraburi, Sing Buri and Chai Nat, and the rest Hom Mali rice 100 percent grade B from warehouses in Phitsanulok, Phayao, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani and Chiang Mai.

The newspaper cited Somchart Sroythong, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, as saying that there were 17 interested buyers, with successful bidders likely to be declared next month, with delivery due between then and June.

Authorities expect this latest sale to fetch more than 1 billion baht (30.9 million USD). It will be the fifth batch the government sold through AFET. The state sold 186,000 out of 600,000 tonnes put up for sale in four previous auctions, raising 2 billion baht (31.8 million USD).

Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said authorities are still negotiating for higher prices with interested bidders who submitted their paperwork, with bargaining expected to last until midnight of February 13.

The caretaker government plans to sell 500,000 to 1 million tonnes through AFET.

The government's latest effort to sell rice for export drew an overwhelming response from interested bidders, with 18 potential buyers submitting their bids yesterday to buy 467,623 tonnes in a tender offer. It was the most active offer in two years, with 10 billion baht (309 million USD) expected to be raised.

Suvimol Pongpittayanun, the president of Easternrice Co, a rice exporter to Asia, attributed the good response to the new grains put up for sale and more flexible conditions that allow buyers to choose from which state warehouse they intend to purchase.

Given the prospect of a severe drought this year, millers are interested in buying up to 500,000 tonnes of state rice stocks, said Mr Surasak../.