(29 January) The Thai government is planning to auction off its mortgaged rice by late January and early February, officials said.
Under the general auction programme, the Department of Foreign Trade (DFT) is reportedly expecting to release at least 500,000 – 1,000,000 tonnes of rice by the end of this year.
According to DFT officials, the government has been forced to rely on auction instead of selling the mortgaged rice under Government to Government (G2G) agreement , after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) ruled that the DFT′s involvement in the G2G agreement lacks adequate transparency.
Officials insisted that they will carefully restrict the quantity of rice selling in each auction, as it may affect the future market price for the goods.
They also stressed that the DFT is ready to testify to the NACC regarding the investigation into the G2G scheme.
The NACC has previously expressed its suspicion that the G2G scheme is selling Thai rice to non-existent state-owned enterprises in China, but officials interviewed by Khaosod insisted that the agreement is legitimate, explaining that each province in China has the ability to form its own state-owned enterprise and engage in international trading on its own.
The debate is in fact centering around NACC′s definition of state-owned enterprise, one official said, since NACC might define it strictly as a federal level, while DFT also defines it as regional level.
Meanwhile, Ms. Korbsook Iamsuri, President of the Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA), agreed that the government should release the rice under the general auction method, but she cautioned that auction must be conducted under strict transparency.
She noted that the price rate of Thai rice in global market remains unchanged at approximately 400 USD per tonne, and is currently competing with Vietnamese rice.
However, Ms. Korbsook stated that the general auction, which will be joined by private companies, may also propose a difficulty to the competitiveness of Thai rice in global market. Recently, many buyers turned to other competitors, so the Thai distributors must actively improve their marketing plans to increase the popularity of Thai rice again, said Ms. Korbsook.
The government should also use other methods, for example, matching the export distributor with individual rice mills, suggested the President of the TREA.
"But I am not sure whether the laws would allow the caretaker government to do that," Ms. Korbsook said.
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