Thailand regained the title of the world's top rice
exporter, thanks a 45% jump in volumes, even as US officials cautioned of a
potential slowdown in the releases from state inventories which have fuelled
Thailand had, as of May 20, shipped 3.93m tonnes of rice in
2014 – overtaking India, with 3.74m tonnes, and Vietnam, with 2.4m tonnes, to
become once more the top exporter of the grain, the Thai Rice Exporters
The jump in exports reflects a return to earth for Thai prices
from elevated levels reached after the government in October 2011 began
stockpiling the grain in a policy to support farmers' incomes, sending prices
that month to $650 a tonne, for the benchmark grade of 5% broken rice.
Thai rice is now priced at about $390 a tonne, below the
$400 a tonne being demand for Vietnamese supplies and $420-430 for Indian
exports, the association said.
'May slow down'
The decline in prices has been driven by sales from state
stockpiles, with officials since January having issued tenders from some 4m tonnes
However, the coup two weeks ago led by General Prayuth
Chan-ocha, commander of the Royal Thai Army, means that "sales of rice stocks
may slow down", the US Department of Agriculture's Bangkok office said.
Thailand's military government "will inspect government rice
stocks nationwide before [making a] further decision on the sales of its rice
The country's coup actually appears to have had remarkably
little effect on agricultural commodity prices, despite Thailand's status as
the top rubber exporter and second-ranked sugar shipper, besides its pre-eminence
in rice trading.
The USDA bureau also flagged a potential setback to 2014-15
Thai rice production, noting an estimate from official Thai meteorologists of a
weak start to the rainy season.
May precipitation had fallen some 7-15% below normal in
rice-growing areas, where rains this month were seen coming in 10% below
Nonetheless, despite potential production and bureaucratic
question markets, the bureau stuck by an estimate of 9.0m tonnes for Thai rice
exports in calendar 2014, a figure which the Thai Rice Exporters Association
backed on Wednesday, raising its forecast from 7.5m tonnes.
The International Grains Council last week raised its forecast
by 500,000 tonnes to 8.7m tonnes, highlighting "a large expansion" in Thai
exports to Africa, which rose by 80% to some 1.2m tonnes in the
"This included heavy sales to Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Togo, suggesting that Thai exporters have competed successfully
with their Indian counterparts, the IGC said.