Bangkok: Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, decided to drop its unpopular “Opec-style” rice cartel plan on Tuesday and offered instead to host a forum of top producing nations to boost supplies and yields.
“If Thailand was going to set up a rice cartel to fix the price, that would worsen food security,” foreign minister Noppadon Pattama told reporters after meeting diplomats from six rice-producing countries.
Noppadon said he floated the idea of establishing an agency to share information on rice production and productivity, called the “Council on Rice Trade Cooperation” instead of a price-setting body.
Noppadon said Thailand, whose rice exports account for a third of the world’s total, would host the first meeting in two to three months if the six countries—China, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam—agreed.
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej told visiting Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein last week he would like to revive the long-dormant idea of a price-setting body, involving Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
But economic analysts and traders said the proposal would go nowhere because of the inability of governments to cooperate with each other and control farmers’ output.
The five South-East Asian nations produce a combined 60 million tonnes of milled rice each year, about 14% of world output. But only Thailand, the world’s No. 1 rice exporter, and Vietnam have major surpluses.