Thailand abandons plan for Southeast Asian rice cartel
Thailand has dropped plans to create an OPEC-style rice cartel, saying it will focus on finding ways to improve productivity among rice-exporting nations.
Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Monday that after meeting with ambassadors from six of Asia's rice-exporting countries, the group is no longer talking about setting up a cartel.
Instead, Thailand has proposed a meeting in the next several weeks of top Asian exporters including India, China, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia and Pakistan to improve productivity.
Thai officials had proposed the idea of a cartel earlier this month in an effort to gain more control over skyrocketing rice prices, which have tripled since December due to concerns of a food crisis.
Officials from neighbouring Burma, also known as Myanmar, and Cambodia had expressed interest in the idea, while Vietnam and Laos said they would study the proposal.
However, the plan was criticized by the Philippines, a major rice importer, and some Thai rice exporters.
Pattama denied that the about-face on the cartel had anything to do with concerns about the impact on the Philippines.
"We are sympathetic to all human beings, not just the Filipinos," said Pattama.
Global rice prices have risen sharply this year amid global food inflation, poor weather in some rice-producing nations and growing demand that has outstripped supply.
Some Asian countries, including India and Vietnam, have contributed to the problem by curbing rice exports to guarantee their own supplies.
With files from the Associated Press