"This is unusual, as Thai rice prices are now quoted at about the same price as Vietnamese rice," said Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association. "The free-on-board prices of 5% white rice, for instance, are only US$420 per tonne, but we still can't find buyers. This has never happened in Thai rice trading."
Mr Chookiat said this could be because rice buyers and traders are betting Thai rice prices will drop further as the Thai government is under pressure to accelerate the sales of its rice stocks to fetch proceeds and honour its payment promises to farmers taking part in the rice pledging programme.
Most who pledged under the main crop are waiting for a late payment, as the government failed to resolve its funds shortage before the House dissolution.
Moreover, the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has refused to use its own liquidity to advance money to farmers without the National Rice Policy Committee's approval to widen the 500-billion-baht limit on outstanding spending.
The bank also said recently it has a mere 22 billion baht on hand until the end of 2013 to pay farmers who pledged rice for the current main crop, making an extra 51 billion baht necessary to fund the scheme.
Since the main crop began in October, about 5.5 million tonnes of paddy worth 90 billion baht has been pledged. The main crop runs to the end of February.
Mr Chookiat said Vietnam is expected to have a bumper rice crop for the winter-spring season, due to be leased next February, while Indonesia has not shown any intention of wanting to buy rice.
The winter-spring crop is Vietnam's biggest and most of the grain is exported. The harvest often peaks in March.
Vietnam's rice exports between January and November rose 9.7 % from a year ago to an estimated 7.44 million tonnes, the Agriculture Ministry said, led by Chinese purchases. The exports set a record for annual shipments with a month to go.
Thai rice shipments for the year are estimated at only 6.5 million tonnes, far below the 8.5 million goal of the Commerce Ministry, said Mr Chookiat. For the first 11 months, Thailand shipped only 5.9 million tonnes, with shipments in December estimated at 300,000 tonnes.
"This is regarded as a holiday period," he said. "We expect rice trading will become more active from next February."