Thu 28 Jan 2010
Filed under: On The Border
Chiang Mai – Thailand has increased surveillance along the Thai-Burma border since the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) came into full effect early this month, over fears of agricultural smuggling, particularly rice, entering the Kingdom.“The Ministry of Agriculture has asked cooperation from related authorities near the border with neighboring countries to raise surveillance on illegal low-quality rice that may be smuggled into the country that would effect the rice price in Thailand,” said Apichat Jongsakuk, General Secretary of Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics, according to a Thai government website.
The flooding of the Thai market with low-quality products from Burma negatively impacts Thai farmers in driving down the costs of their products
China’s Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday that over the first nine months of fiscal 2009-2010 Burma expanded its rice market by exporting to Russia, Ukraine, Australia and South Korea.
According to official figures, Burma’s rice exports over the said period totaled over 1.2 million tons. Additionally, Burma is making efforts to export high-grade rice to the Middle East, African and European Union countries.
According to official statistics, Burma’s rice surplus is about 5 million tons yearly.
With a total area of 676,500 square kilometres, Burma had been the world’s largest exporter of rice as recently as the 1930s, but rice exports fell by two thirds in the 1940s, with the country never again reclaiming its dominant status in the international rice trade. Thailand and Vietnam now lead the world in rice exports.
A rice trader in Mae Sot in Thailand told Mizzima that demand for imported Burmese rice has nearly doubled since AFTA came into effect, even though the quality is lower.
According to Thailand’s Office of Agricultural Economics, Thailand earns approximately 102 billion baht [3.4 billion USD] in agricultural trade with ASEAN.