Thailand has its eyes on food security funds

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Thailand has its eyes on food security funds

At a recent Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) summit held in Kuwait, the issue of food security was one of the key talking points.

The ACD is currently a 31-nation forum whose members make up 60 percent of the world’s population. The ACD, among others, includes all 10 member nations of ASEAN as well as the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.

The issue of food security goes well beyond the borders of Asia and is of varying levels of concern to most of developing and Third World nations.

At the Kuwait summit a proposal was suggested that one of the ways to guard against an unexpected shortfall in world food supply would be to set up food stockpiles in some member states.

Kuwait suggested it would be a good idea to set up a US$2 billion development fund under the auspices of the ACD framework. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) would be asked to provide the initial seed money for the project to the tune of US$300 million.

Among Thailand’s representatives at the ACD summit was Minister of Commerce Boonsong Teriyapirom. The minister suggested Thailand was in a very good position to become a food stockpiler.

The Commerce Minister was reported as saying Thailand would like to obtain a substantial slice of the initial seed fund which would be used to build a large rice silo capable of not only increasing Thailand’s ability to stockpile rice but also extend the time period for which it can stockpile the rice.

According to present figures Thailand is capable of producing around 32 million tonnes of paddy rice every year. Unfortunately, the country can only stock a rice surplus for a maximum of three years.

The Commerce Ministry, along with the ministers in charge of the Industry and Foreign Affairs portfolios have been requested by the prime minister to investigate ways in which Thailand can obtain the necessary funding to construct the kind of large silo capable of stocking rice for seven to eight years.

Once the world’s leading exporter of rice, Thailand’s dominant position has been challenged in recent years by India and Vietnam. In 2011, according to data published by Reuters, Thailand was the number one exporter of rice with 10.64 million tonnes going out of the country. This compared to Vietnam with seven million tonnes and India at 4.63 million tonnes.

This year, Thailand’s exports have been overtaken by both India and Vietnam, although Thailand is a clear third. In coming years it is expected Myanmar will start to become a leading rice exporter as well.