Trade ministry wants rice export limits scrapped

By Anh Minh, Anh Tu   April 27, 2020 | 07:32 pm PT
Trade ministry wants rice export limits scrapped
Farmers harvest rice in a paddy field in the southern province of Soc Trang, March 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyet Nhi.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has called for lifting restrictions on rice exports and a return to normalcy from May 1.

In a communication to the government on Monday it said rice supply and demand are steady and the goal of limiting exports to ensure food security during this difficult time has been fulfilled. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam can export 3.2 million tonnes of the grain from the recently harvested winter-spring crop and from last year. 

Output in the upcoming summer-autumn crop is expected to be 11 million tonnes, and Vietnam could export 2.3-2.4 million tonnes, it added.

Based on these figures, the trade ministry said that Vietnam could export 1.3 million tonnes of rice between early May and mid-June. 

However, to ensure food security, it also proposed that exports should only be allowed through international border gates, and authorities should crack down on smuggling.

It would urge exporters to comply with recent government decrees and ensure that the circulated reserve is at least 5 percent of the total volume of rice exported in the previous six months.

The country's 20 largest exporters would be required to sign agreements with at least one supermarket chain so that this reserve could be released in the domestic market immediately whenever the government wants, it said.

Any exporter failing to maintain this reserve or comply with the agreement would lose their rice export license, it added.

At a meeting held to discuss food security last month, the ministry had suggested suspending rice exports until the end of May due to concerns surrounding the Covid-19 epidemic and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta, resulting in the suspension of all rice exports on March 24.

Just a day later the ministry sought the lifting of this ban, and the government did so on April 10 but capped April exports at 400,000 tons.

Many companies complained however that customs began accepting declaration forms at midnight on April 11 without prior notice, and as a result many of them with large quantities of rice stuck at ports were unable to submit their forms before the 400,000-tonne threshold was reached.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered the Government Inspectorate to look into possible violations in this regard. 

Vietnam is the world's third largest rice exporter after India and Thailand. Last year it exported 6.37 million tons worth $2.81 billion, with the top markets being the Philippines, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, and China. 

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