Thailand plans to sell rice to Iran, sending trade delegation

 27 Jan 2016 - 16:47

Thailand plans to sell rice to Iran, sending trade delegation
A man loads a truck at a export rice plant in the central Chainat province in Thailand, December 16, 2015.


BANGKOK: Thailand plans to sell 300,000 tonnes of rice to Iran and a trade delegation will visit the country next week to seek more opportunities following the lifting of international sanctions, government officials said on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak will head a government and private sector delegation to Oman and Iran on Jan. 31, his office said.

Thailand is one of the world's top rice exporters and one of the first deals with Iran will be for grain supplies.

"The deputy prime minister's visit will be like an entry signal to private investors, so trade may resume," Nopporn Thepsithar, chairman of the executive directors of Export-Import Bank of Thailand told Reuters.

"Iran and Thailand had good relations in the past, and Iranians may like (to import) Thai products and Thai foods"

The state-owned bank would support private sector investment and trade, he added.

The Thai team will discuss rice, tourism and technology, a Thai official on the delegation said.

The Thai Rice Exporters Association and the commerce ministry would negotiate the rice deal in Iran next week, said Chookiat Opaswong, honorary president of the association.

The rice would come from the new harvest and had not been factored into Thailand's official target of 9 million tonnes export for 2016, Chookiat said, adding it was a "bonus".

Thailand was the world's top rice supplier until 2012, when a costly subsidy scheme under the country's former government priced its rice out of the export market and led to a massive build-up of the grain in state storage depots.

The military government has struggled to draw down the rice in storage and is unlikely to meet an official target to clear the warehouses by 2017. There are still around 13 million tonnes in storage and some of it has been deemed unfit for human consumption.

Chookiat said he was optimistic Thailand would regain its crown as top rice exporter in 2016 because India, the current leading exporter, had problems with a drought.

However, Thailand is also facing a drought and the country's export target for the year is a million tonnes less than for 2015.