Think Rice - Think Thailand
Thailand Rice Convention 2015 by Roger Gilbert, Milling and Grain
hink Rice - Think Thailand’ - That was the challenge delivered to the 500-plus delegates, including importers and buyers, attending the 7th Thailand Rice Convention in Bangkok, from May 19-21, 2015. It was a challenge for many of the speakers as well, who had to address several industry sectors represented by attendees ranging from farmers and farm organisations, to rice millers and manufacturers, and to traders and importers, and none more so than Prime Minister H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha who officially opened the Convention. Organised by Thailand’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce, participants came from over 40 countries.
However, immediately in front of the conference hall was an exhibition area called ‘The Kingdom of Rice’ featuring the work of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirinthorn and celebrating the contribution she has made to farmers, and rice farming in particular and the industry, on her 60th birthday. It showed off model villages, giving an insight into the uniqueness of farming life in various regions across Thailand. It was obvious from these displays that Thai rice production remains traditional and adhering to inherited wisdom passed down through the ages throughout Thailand. Complementing these traditional exhibits were displays showing off the various rice varieties produced in Thailand, highlighting winning crops and displaying the many different products produced today for both local and export markets. A product now finding a place in the market is rice bran oil. 38 | Milling and Grain
The overriding impression given to foreign visitors was the connection being forged between modern food products with improved nutrition and traditional farming methods. The full day conference was followed on day two with a visit to the industry’s DNA testing laboratory and a tour of a rice research station and rice mill (which MAG will be reporting on in our next edition). Thailand’s new Prime Minister H.E. General Prayut Chano-cha, now completing his first year in his new role, opened the convention with a wide-ranging presentation that offered something to all sectors gathered. Despite his military background, General Prayut Chan-o-cha has a firm understanding of the importance of rice production to farmers and to the economy of his country. His messages were clear and direct: that the Thai rice industry had to accept there was an internal market price for rice; that his country’s rice farming industry had to work with other neighbouring rice industries to gain better returns from the market through co-ordinated growing and marketing strategies. He said government policies alone could not deliver higher prices to farmers as had been attempted in the recent past. However, he spoke of ways to support rice farmers in becoming more efficient, lowering production costs through the adoption of research and development, capitalising on organic production, adopting regional production zones for certain rice varieties and re-focusing on nutritionally-improved rice varieties such as black, purple and coloured rice.
The rice debate
The first order of business as the Convention got down to work was to debate Thailand’s rice industry outlook for 2015-