Thailand's Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom recently said he is hopeful the Kingdom will re-assume its place as a rice trading hub to the world, after a downturn in exports last year.
The news, announced in Chiang Mai at the 6th Thailand Rice Convention 2013, overlaps with the strong links Thailand hopes to build with its regional nations in the lead up to the ASEAN community, which is scheduled to commence on 31 December 2015.
In November 2012, at the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, the Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra declared Thailand's readiness to act as a regional distribution centre for rice to ASEAN countries, should emergency reserves be needed as a result of natural disasters or economic emergencies.
She also said that Thailand stands prepared to help deal with emergencies arising in any of the ASEAN+3 nations, in accordance with ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve Agreement, signed in October 2011 by the 10 ASEAN members, with the addition of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.
Agreement details call for each participating nation to earmark a self-declared amount of rice for emergency use, if required. If Thailand assumes the voluntary role, its responsibility as Secretariat for the project would entail coordinating the channeling of rice reserves to wherever they are needed.
Thailand has long been one of the world's largest rice producers, but has slipped down the list in the last few years after serious flooding and heat spells cut exports. The proposed Secretariat role would therefore help maintain the the country's image as a key rice-producing nation.
Last month in Bangkok, Khun Kobsuk Lemsuree, chairwoman of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said that despite Thailand's unlikeliness to achieve its 2013 export goal of 6 million tonnes (revised down from 6.5 m), over 500 of the nation's rice dealers are working hard to promote the region as the world's rice field.
She cited Thailand's advanced rice production technology, its sophisticated transport system and financial services capabilities as strengths that position the country as Southeast Asia's top rice trading centre for the ASEAN community. Commerce Minister Boonsong added to this positivity, with pledges that all pending deliveries will be fulfilled, and improved results lie ahead for the rice sector this year due to new and ongoing sales negotiations.