Last year the country exported 10.5 million tonnes but this year’s figure could be as low as 6.5 million tonnes, a slump of 38 per cent.
Korbsook Iamsuree, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said that rice exports face many obstacles this year.
The first of these, she said, is overall world demand, with the US Department of Agriculture predicting a fall of almost 3 million tonnes, from 34.78 million last year to 31.88 million in 2012.
Second, India will resume rice exports after a three-year suspension. It has already allowed exports of two million tonnes of rice and additional rice export permits are likely to hit Thai exports, in particular white rice and parboiled rice, which could drop by another 1.5 million tonnes, she said.
Several other countries have also increased rice exports this year. They include Cambodia, Myanmar, Brazil, Uruguay and Pakistan, she said.
In addition, Thai rice prices are higher than their competitors due to the Government’s rice mortgage scheme. Thai rice is currently the world’s most expensive, said the TREA.
For example, Thailand’s five per cent white rice and five per cent parboiled rice are both exported at the same price of US$533 a tonne, while the Indian equivalents are sold at US$435 and US$450 respectively.
Thai jasmine rice is under attack, too. Vietnamese jasmine rice sells at $350-450 per tonne, while Thai jasmine rice tops US$1,000 a tonne. Vietnam has grabbed a sizeable share of Thailand’s rice export market, particularly in Asia, according to Ms Korbsook.
Thai rice prices and production this year will also be at the mercy of regional conditions, natural disasters currency exchange fluctuations and the government’s policies, she warned.