Thailand, Vietnam Discuss a Plan To Jointly Raise Rice Prices

Thailand and Vietnam have started talks on increasing rice prices to boost their bargaining power in the global market, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana announced.

On Thursday, Deputy Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Tran Thanh Nam met with officials from Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to discuss steps to promote food safety to revalue some agricultural products produced by both countries.

As part of the cooperation commitment, Vietnam’s officials are set to visit and examine Thailand’s agricultural cooperatives to empower their activities.

The Vietnamese government and Thai authorities have also agreed to train farmers, helping them use specialized equipment instead of manpower, and discussed ways to cooperate with farmers on sanitary and phytosanitary matters, the government spokesman explained.

According to Mr. Thanakorn, the meeting’s objective was to help the two countries, both rice exporters, to raise their products’ prices and increase farmers’ income. Both governments also hope to increase their bargaining power in the world market after over two decades of low prices.

Thai and Vietnamese officials also discussed cooperation plans to boost other areas. The spokesman said that Thailand had asked Vietnam to support the ASEAN Rubber Council to grow the region’s rubber industry.

Thai representatives also called on Vietnamese officials to comply with the 2016 agreement by expediting permission to import mangos, rambutan, chicks and eggs from Thailand.

Also, all attendees agreed that they would increase agricultural logistics cooperation to ensure that perishables are transported safely by land and sea between Thailand, Vietnam and Laos to China and other countries, Mr. Thanakorn explained.

However, both sides said they would discuss such matters further at an upcoming meeting on sanitary and phytosanitary issues, the spokesman added.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister adviser Alongkorn Ponlaboot backed the plan, saying that rising rice prices would benefit both nations and their farmers.

But critics said it could favor market rivals. Thai Rice Exporters Association’s honorary president Chookiat Ophaswongse said no one should try to tamper with prices as rice exports are free trade.

Mr. Chookiat mentioned the limitations related to high storage costs as rice is a perishable food and the role of other major rice exporters such as India, which produces almost 15 million tons more rice than Thailand and Vietnam each year.

If both countries jointly raise their rice prices, there’s a risk that other buyers will decide to purchase rice from India or other exporters such as Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia.