- Thailand encourages farmers to grow less water-intensive crops in response to low rainfall.
- The shift could further disrupt global rice markets, already shaken by India's export ban.
- The final decision remains in farmers' hands, with current high global rice prices potentially incentivizing continued rice cultivation.
Thailand, globally recognized as the second largest rice exporter, is coaxing its farmers to scale back on rice farming in a strategic bid to conserve water. This strategy is set against the backdrop of India's recent embargo on rice exports, a combination that may unsettle global rice markets further.
Thailand's predicament stems from lower than average rainfall which has driven the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) to implore farmers to shift their focus to less water-intensive crops. These alternative crops also have the added advantage of being ready for harvest in a shorter timeframe.
Surasri Kidtimonton, the Secretary-General of ONWR, revealed in a statement that the country has only received about 60% of its normal rainfall, pushing it dangerously close to a water crisis. To manage this precarious situation, Kidtimonton emphasizes the need to prioritize water for consumption and the cultivation of perennial crops.
These perennial crops, unlike annual crops such as rice, naturally regenerate after each harvest, eliminating the need for yearly replanting. The water savings are significant: while a kilogram of rice requires an average of 2,500 liters of water, alternative crops like millets demand only between 650 to 1,200 liters for the same yield.
In a related development, India halted exports of non-basmati white rice last month to ensure sufficient domestic availability. This move is significant as India spearheads the global rice trade with a whopping 40% share. Rabobank's senior analyst, Oscar Tjakra, suggests this double blow – India's export ban and potential reduced output from Thailand – may lead to a sharp uptick in global rice prices.
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