BANGKOK – Thailand’s commerce minister, Chatchai Sirikalya, on Monday said that China will buy 1 million tonnes of rice from Thailand, easing pressure on a military government struggling to shift stockpiles of grains accumulated under a previous farm subsidy program.
Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, has about 14.5 million tonnes of rice in stockpiles built up under a generous rice subsidy scheme run by a government that was overthrown by the military in May 2014.
The rice will be sold to China at market prices, said Chatchai, adding that the sale involved Hom Mali, or Thai jasmine rice, and Thai 5-percent broken white rice.
“In the past week the commerce ministry traveled to China and agreed with the Chinese government to do a government-to- government sale and agreed to officially sell rice (to China),” Chatchai said.
Chinese government officials did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
In December, Thailand said China would buy 2 million tonnes of rice after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding during a two-day regional summit in Bangkok.
The deal announced on Monday was part of that agreement, said Chatchai, adding that negotiations for the sale of a further 1 million tonnes would begin in September.
He said Thai government officials would travel to Iran at the end of August to try to strike similar deals.
“Iran has expressed interest in buying rice at the end of August,” said Chatchai.