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Thai rice prices may ease 20 pct

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai rice prices are likely to ease by about 20 percent in coming weeks as supply from the new domestic crop has improved substantially, the secretary general of the Thai Rice Exporters’ Association said on Monday.

“It is very likely that prices will ease. After the Philippine tender, I don’t see any strong bullish factor for the market to drive it higher,” Korbsook Iamsuri told Reuters in an interview.

“The market is likely to correct up to 20 percent even if the bans by India and Vietnam remain,” said Korbsook, who is also managing director of Kamolkij Co Ltd, a leading Thai parboiled rice exporter.

“Crop arrivals are much better than what it was three weeks ago,” she said as Thai prices remained above the historic $1,000 per tonne level reached a week ago.

The benchmark Thai 100 percent B grade white rice was quoted at around $1,030-$1,050 per tonne on Monday, slightly below last week’s top quote of $1,080 per tonne, she said.

Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter, expects to produce about 4.2 million tonnes of milled rice from a smaller second crop due to be harvested by May, according to the commerce ministry.

Around 1.6 million tonnes of additional paddy, equivalent to 1 million tonnes of milled rice, is due to hit the market in June when farmers harvest this rare third crop planted to take advantage of soaring prices.

Exports to Africa would likely fall by up to 700,000 tonnes this year, Korbsook said, from overall Thai rice exports of 3.9 million tonnes to the continent last year.

“Demand from Nigeria and South Africa is intact, but countries like Senegal and Ghana are sharply reducing purchases of white rice,” she said.

Many African countries rely heavily on food imports and soaring prices, especially for rice, have triggered protests and forced some governments to try to cut their dependency on foreign supplies.

Thai rice prices have nearly trebled since India and Vietnam, the world’s number two and three exporters, imposed curbs on rice exports to ensure their own supplies.

That has put a lot of nervous eyes on Thailand, which accounts for nearly a third of all rice traded globally, and fuelled speculation that Bangkok may impose similar curbs.

However, senior Thai officials from the Prime Minister down have insisted that they planned no such action, which analysts say would damage the country’s carefully cultured reputation as one of the world’s key food producers.

Editing by Darren Schuettler