Asean is organising cooperation throughout the region in an attempt to prop up rice prices and strengthen member states’ bargaining power in the global trading system.
Laos is the latest rice producer to agree to join the cooperative, along with Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
It is believed that successful cooperation will strengthen the Asean region’s competitiveness in the rice market.
In bilateral talks during the Asean Economic ministers’ Meeting (AEM) being held in Siem Riep, Cambodia, Thai Commerce minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom yesterday proposed this idea to Nam Viyaketh, industry and commerce minister of Laos.
The cooperative plan, which is in the draft phase, will be announced during the Asean Summit in Phnom Penh in November.
According to the plan, Thailand will support the Laotian rice industry by helping the country develop its farms, harvesting techniques and milling.
In addition, Laos has urged Thailand to import maize, the cultivation of which Thai companies have promoted through contract-farming projects. Boonsong said Thailand through the Public Warehouse Organisation would purchase the maize at market price if it is of suitable quality.
He said the maize would be distributed to farmers as feed for hogs and hens, and to agricultural cooperatives, clubs and related associations. This would help them reduce feed-meal costs and ultimately bring down retail prices.
During the AEM, ministers have pointed out that the process towards the single Asean market by 2015 is behind schedule. Overall, Asean is about 72 per cent prepared for market liberalisation, while Thailand has achieved nearly 80 per cent of the target.
Issues delaying the process include cross-border trade facilitation, cooperation on establishing common standards for goods, liberalisation of services, and the setting up of a body to monitor the elimination of non-tariff measures, as well as the establishment of an “Asean single window” to smooth operations of the private sector.