Vietnam widens rice export lead over Thailand in June: trade data
Vietnam widened its 2020 rice export lead over Thailand to about 600,000 mt in June, according to trade data from both countries.
While Thai exports in the first half of 2020 totaled 2.89 million mt, down by 34% year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce, provisional government data cited by Reuters estimated total Vietnamese exports at around 3.5 million mt, up 5.6%.
If sustained, Vietnamese exports will outstrip Thai exports for the first time since 2012, with Vietnam likely to be the second largest origin market behind India in 2020. The unusually slow pace of Thai exports led the Thai Rice Exporters Association to cut its 2020 rice export target to 6.5 million mt from 7.5 million mt in July, 200,000 mt below the Vietnamese government’s export target.
Unusually, Thailand’s main export market in H1 has been the US, a net exporter, with many core markets in sub-Saharan Africa favoring more competitively priced current crop white and parboiled rice from India and old crop white rice from India and China. As a result, exports to Benin and Cameroon have decreased by 92% and 52% respectively year on year. While Benin was Thailand’s top export market in 2019, it ranks behind both Singapore and Hong Kong in 2020.
Vietnam has benefited from both Thailand’s lackluster performance in Africa in 2020 and the Philippines liberalizing its rice import structure in 2019. The Philippines received 40% of Vietnam’s exports in May and 20% in June.
The comparative pace of Thai and Vietnamese exports is surprising considering both countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Vietnam imposed export restrictions from March 24-April 30 to ensure national food security as the spread of the pandemic worsened, Thailand was arguably the least affected Asian origin market, with minimal trade disruption reported.
Price has been a major contributory factor to Vietnam’s success so far in 2020, despite disruptions earlier this year. S&P Global Platts’ assessment of Vietnamese 5% broken white rice averaged a $65/mt discount to Thai 5% broken white rice in H1. However, Vietnam’s price advantage has waned in recent weeks due to tightening stocks and Vietnamese 5% broken white rice was assessed above Thai 5% broken white rice for the first time since December 2018 on Aug. 3.
As both Vietnamese and Thai rice share the same import tariff in the Philippines due to their ASEAN membership, this could present Thai exporters with a gateway to Vietnam’s most important market if Vietnam’s recent price increases are sustained. However, Thai white rice prices have been closely tracking Vietnamese prices in recent weeks and the Thai market could react to the recent spike in Vietnamese prices in the coming days.