BANGKOK Nov 20 Thailand will sign a memorandum
of understanding to sell rice to China during Chinese Premier
Wen Jiabao's official visit to Bangkok this week, a senior
Commerce Ministry official said on Tuesday, but gave no details
of the variety or price agreed.
Thailand, the world's No. 1 rice exporter, is in danger of
losing its top position for the first time since 1983 because of
a government intervention scheme that has pushed up export
prices to uncompetitive levels.
The country is struggling to offload record stockpiles of 14
million tonnes of milled rice, besides desperately seeking more
storage space for the grain, after it renewed the controversial
price-support scheme in October.
"It would be a rough agreement that we would supply rice to
China if needed," Pranee Siriphand, director general of the
Ministry of Commerce's Department of Foreign Trade, told
reporters, but declined to give details of the variety and
quantity of rice China would buy.
However, the Thai cabinet had approved a framework to sell
up to 5 million tonnes of rice within 3 years if China wanted to
buy, another senior government official said.
Chinese premier Wen makes an official visit to Thailand on
Tuesday and Wednesday to strengthen bonds with Bangkok and is
expected to hold a joint news conference with Prime Minister
In its bid to support farmers, the government continued to
pay 15,000 baht ($490) per tonne for paddy, well above offers by
local millers of around 9,000 baht. This has driven government
stockpiles of the staple to a record of 14 million tonnes of
The government says it sold 7.3 million tonnes of its
stockpile to foreign governments, but industry officials are
sceptical of the claim as details of payments and shipments are
(Reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Editing by Clarence