By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE Commerce Ministry has instructed its agencies to urge the Chinese and Russian governments to sign memoranda of understanding for the purchase of rice and rubber under government-to-government (G2G) contracts with Thailand, as negotiated last year.
China agreed last year with the military-led government to purchase 2 million tonnes of rice and 200,000 tonnes of rubber under G2G contracts, while Russia showed high interest in buying 80,000 tonnes of rubber from Thailand.
Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya yesterday said he had assigned the Foreign Trade Department and the Trade Negotiations Department to fly to China and Russia to ask them about the progress on finalising G2G contracts for farm crops.
Following the issues surrounding G2G contracts during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration, Chatchai insisted that any such contracts entered into by the current government would be conducted legally and transparently, and would provide the maximum benefit to the Kingdom.
So far, the government has inked a G2G contract for 1 million tonnes of rice with the Chinese government, under which more than 300,000 tonnes has already been delivered. The minister also insisted that any G2Gs with China for the trading of 2 million tonnes of rice and 200,000 tonnes of rubber would not be a barter trade in exchange for trains from China.
Meanwhile, the ministry reiterated yesterday that Thailand had an adequate supply of palm oil for domestic consumption.
The recent Cabinet approval of the importation of 50,000 tonnes of crude palm oil is only intended to ensure a buffer stock for two months before the next harvest season in late March, it said.
Chutima Bunyapraphasara, permanent secretary to the ministry, said the short-term imports should help ensure that the domestic market does not face a low stockpile of palm oil in the run-up to the harvest season.
The official said the ministry was calling for people not to panic about the currently low amount of palm oil, as more cooking palm oil would enter the market shortly after the buffer stock is imported.
The first imports under the quota should reach Thailand by late this month. The government will immediately stop the imports if domestic supply rises significantly from the current level, and certainly when more palm-fruit output becomes available in late March, she explained. The price of palm fruit should not fall below Bt5 per kilogram, and farmers should therefore ensure that palm-oil refineries continue to purchase palm fruit in the market, she added.
During the wait for more supply of palm oil, the ministry will closely monitor the prices and stocks of cooking palm-oil traders, said Chutima. If any traders are found to be hoarding stocks or increasing prices above the ceiling of Bt42 per litre bottle, they could face punishment under the Goods and Service Price Act