Thailand has lost its decades-old status as the world's largest rice exporter. An industry group has said it's been toppled by Vietnam as a Thai government scheme for farmers continues to draw a mixed response.
Thailandlost its more than three-decades-old title as the nation that logs the highest volume of rice shipments abroad, the country's Rice Exporters' Association reported on Friday.
It said Thailand exported 6.9 million tons in 2012, down 35.5 percent from the previous year's level, and not enough to beat the new champion India and follower-up Vietnam which logged deliveries abroad of 9.5 million tons and 7.6 million tons respectively.
"We had been the champion since 1980, but we lost the top spot in 2012," the honorary president of the association, Chookiat Ophaswongse told AFP news agency.
Controversial government program
He blamed Thailand's drastic drop in exports on a government paddy pledging scheme under which rice had been bought from farmers at a fixed price of $484 (367 euros) per ton - that is for 50 percent more than the market price.
The scheme had been hailed by farmers as it boosted their incomes, but hit Thailand's competitiveness abroad. Since the program was launched in October 2011, the government has stockpiled more than 10 million tons of rice.
The World Bank estimated that if Thailand were to sell last year's stockpiles at today's prices, it would lose some $3.7 billion. Chookiat Ophaswongse warned that the situation could become even more unfavorable for his country. "I think this year China will import less and India will continue to export, so the competition will be tough and Thailand will be left hanging."
hg/rc (dpa, AFP)