Rice auctions off to slow start

The military regime has been able to sell only 73,000 tonnes of rice out of 167,000 tonnes put up for auction on Aug 7.

Duangporn Rodphaya, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said a recent meeting of the junta chaired by Gen Chatchai Sarikalya, deputy head of economic affairs for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), endorsed the Commerce Ministry selling 73,000 tonnes to 11 winning bidders for 740 million baht.

The NCPO had put 167,000 tonnes of rice from state stocks up for auction, the first lot to go under the hammer since sales were halted when the military took control on May 22.

Last week's auction drew 46 exporters, millers and rice packers, but most made offers below the floor prices set by the panel handling rice sales.

Lots included Hom Mali, white, glutinous and broken rice.

Winning offers were quoted at 7,610 baht a tonne for broken rice and 28,000 baht a tonne for 100% grade B Hom Mali rice.

Winners included Asia Golden Rice, Chia Meng Group, Ponglarp and Ruamchai Multitrade.

Ms Duangporn said the junta also promised to amend certain conditions and the bidding process at rice auctions in order to make them more enticing for potential buyers.

The second auction is expected to be held in late August for about 200,000 tonnes.

Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the auction was a good start.

"There is a lot of demand for rice right now in the market," said Mr Charoen.

"And we expect the auctions will fetch higher prices than in previous years."

For instance, he said, bidders offered to buy Hom Mali fragrant rice at 28.50 baht a kilogramme, which was much higher than the 23-25 baht achieved under the previous government.

Offers for white rice were 10.50 to 11.75 baht per kg, up from eight to nine baht.

Rice prices in Vietnam have dropped since it tightened control of its border to prevent smuggling to China.

Vietnam's 5% white rice is now quoted at only US$450 a tonne, almost equivalent to the prices of Thai white rice.

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