Thai Hom Mali fragrant rice has regained the world champion status it last held in 2017, potentially giving a lift to the country’s exports of the grain.
The 12th annual World Rice Conference, held virtually by the US-based trade publication Rice Trader, announced that Thai Hom Mali had seen off rivals from five countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, China and the US.
Thai Hom Mali was dethroned in 2018 by Malys Angkor, a premium fragrant variety from Cambodia and in 2019 it saw the title go to ST24, a premium variety from Soc Trang province in Vietnam. Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said the award would benefit not only farmers, but also Thailand’s entire rice trading industry and future exports, as it attested to the quality of the country’s staple grain.
“The World Rice Conference has held 12 contests and Thailand has won the first prize six times. That guarantees Thai rice is the best in the world,” he said.
The minister said the government had vowed to strengthen Thailand’s reputation as the world’s best producer of quality rice through a marketing campaign that would run from 2020-24.
Under the five-year strategy, Thailand is accelerating the development of 12 new rice varieties, including four hard-textured varieties of white rice, four varieties of soft-textured white rice, two varieties of Thai Hom Mali fragrant rice and two varieties of high-nutrition rice.
“If we could develop more rice varieties and eliminate red tape and regulations that still hinder our development, Thai rice can hold on to this title for many years,” said Mr Jurin.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, says the country is expected to ship only about 5.8 million tonnes this year but the figure should rise to 7 million in 2021.
Thailand has exported 5.1 million tonnes so far in 2020, down 28% from the same period in 2019, with total sales of 108 billion baht, down 11%. The country for many years was the world’s top rice exporter but in recent years has fallen behind India and Vietnam.