Thai rice exports surge by 40 percent

The buzz among investors in Thailand is all about the digital economy. But a pillar of the traditional economy is proving its strength: the Kingdom’s rice exports have soared by 40 percent so far this year with the U.S. being the second-largest buyer of Thai rice.

Thai rice exports surged 40 percent during January through September compared to the same period last year. The export total of 5.41 million tons produced a rise in earnings of 36 percent to $2.5 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The Rice Exporters Association of Thailand forecasts that the Kingdom will export between 7 million and 8 million tons of rice this year. The weaker baht, Thailand’s currency, is a factor in making Thai rice more competitive compared to its rivals from India and Viet Nam.

Rice is metaphorically synonymous with Thailand. The grain has been integral to Thai culture for centuries. Commercially, the Kingdom was the world’s leading exporter of rice during the latter part of the 20th century and into the early years of this century.

Thailand’s “hom mali” or jasmine fragrant rice strain has repeatedly won awards for the world’s best rice. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations uses Thailand’s grade B white rice as the benchmark for global rice prices.

While Thailand’s staple grain remains a staple of the traditional economy, Thailand’s rice industry is embracing the new economy of genetics, research and development, and advanced technologies. Researchers are using these tools to create new rice varieties that are more resilient to changing climate conditions, more environmentally friendly to grow, and present a wider range of flavors and nutrients.

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