Vietnam ‘not in deal with Thailand’ to jointly raise rice prices

HANOI: Vietnam is not in a deal with Thailand to jointly raise rice prices, Le Minh Hoan, Vietnam’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Le Minh Hoan said on Thursday.

The two Southeast Asian countries’ agriculture ministries “have only conducted general cooperation activities,” the agriculture minister said in a statement during a government meeting in Hanoi.

The statement – the Vietnamese government’s first on the issue – comes less than a month after Thailand’s Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalerm­chai Sri-on said on Sept 3 that both Southeast Asian countries have reached an accord aimed at raising the price of locally produced rice in the global market amid soaring costs for farmers.

“The agreement is the first step taken in cooperation between Thailand and Vietnam to help rice farmers gain fairer export prices using the pricing mechanism in the global market,” Mr Chalermchai said.

The two countries began talks in May. A Thai spokesperson said then that the objective of raising prices jointly was to increase their leverage in the global market and boost farmers’ incomes.

Thailand and Vietnam account for about 10% of global production of rough rice and about 26% of global exports, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Thai exporters have said a price cartel would be unfeasible and would make Thailand and Vietnam uncompetitive.

Thailand has set a target to export 7 million tonnes of rice this year, according to the Thai agriculture minister.

The Vietnam Food Association said late last month the country’s rice exports are expected to rise to 6.3 million to 6.5 million tonnes in 2022 from 6.24 million tonnes last year on strong demand.

Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rice exporter, reported a 19% year-on-year increase in its rice shipments in the first eight months this year, to 4.7 million tonnes.