Thailand aims to cut rice output and increase exports

BANGKOK, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Thailand will aim again to cut rice production this year, while increasing exports, a government official said on Monday.

The world’s second-biggest rice exporter failed in its attempt to get farmers to grow less in 2016 despite weak prices. It still holds a stockpile of eight million tonnes resulting from a previous government’s subsidy scheme.

Thailand will target paddy rice production of 25-26 million tonnes for 2017-2018, Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, the commerce ministry’s permanent secretary, told reporters after a meeting of the government’s rice management committee.

The country produced about 30 million tonnes of rice in the last crop year.

"The government seeks to reduce rice growing areas," Wiboonlasana told reporters.

She said Thailand wanted to increase exports to 10 million tonnes, from 9.63 million tonnes in 2016, when it was second only to India.

The agriculture ministry would be in charge of drawing up this year’s rice production plan, Wiboonlasana said.

Thailand announced a similar goal of curbing production at 27 million tonnes last year, but failed to get farmers to grow less rice and turn to other crops.

Prices of Thai benchmark 5 percent broken rice <RI-THBKN5-P1> are close to where they were nine years ago. The grain was quoted at $360-365 per tonne, FOB basis, on Monday.

Wiboonlasana said the government will start auctioning rice in state stockpiles to private companies shortly. It held its last auction in August.

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The stockpile was built up under the previous government of Yingluck Shinawatra, which spent billions of dollars to subsidise farmers. That elected government was ousted by the army in 2014.

The junta has said it plans to clear the stocks by the end of this year. 

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