Prime minister urges Thais to eat less rice
Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday urged Thais to eat less rice so as to allow farmers to export more. ( dpa )
The prime minister noted that farmers could sell their rice at double the price last year on the export market, so Thais should make the sacrifice of eating less of their staple food, the Bangkok Post online service reported.
Samak, who earlier this year advised consumers to eat more chicken as the best means of countering rising pork prices, offered his unique solution to Thailand's artificial rice shortage on his Sunday talk show.
Thailand has been the world's leading rice exporter since the mid-1960s, and is well-placed this year to take advantage of a doubling in world rice prices caused by export bans in Vietnam and India, the second and third largest rice exporters.
Thai exporters, however, are having trouble meeting orders because of mass hoarding of rice among rich farmers, millers and speculators.
The vast majority of Thailand's rice farmers are poor, own small plots of land with no storage facilities and face huge debts from money lenders for the fertilizers they use to grow paddy.
Thailand produces about 20 million tons of rice a year, about 8 to 9 million tons of which is usually exported, with the remainder consumed locally.
The government has a rice stockpile of 2 million tons which it has promised to release on the local market to keep local prices at reasonable levels. Even so, the local price for rice has risen more than 50 per cent this year.