September 18, 2003



Thailand Should Continue Unlimited Soybean Imports Says Committee

A Thai government committee that oversees the soybean and vegetable oil industry is proposing Thailand continues its unlimited quota of soybean imports this year, and maintains its zero tariff rate on the commodity, according to the Thai Feed Mill Association Thursday.


The committee's decision is expected to be submitted to the cabinet for final approval probably this month, Virachai Ratanabanchuen, president of the Thai Feed Mill Association said in a statement.


Thailand scrapped its import quota on soybeans in 2002 and has allowed an unlimited volume of imports at a zero tariff rate since then, following complaints from local consumer trade associations that the limited soybean import quota wasn't meeting domestic needs. Thailand had limited its soybean imports to 1.5 million metric tons a year in 2001


Under the proposed import policy for next year, soybean importers will have to continue buying locally produced soybeans from farmers in a guaranteed price range before turning to imports, Virachai said. He said the guaranteed price for this year will range from 10 to 13.50 baht a kilogram ($1=THB40.511) across the difference grades of soybeans. The move is aimed at protecting local soybean farmers from price falls amid unlimited imports.


Soybean imports will be used to produce edible oils and feedstuff as well as for processed foods.


Virachai said the livestock industry will be pleased that next year's soybean import policy is likely to be announced this month. In recent years, soybean import policies were announced in the first few months of the year of imports instead of in the previous year, making it difficult for importers to plan ahead.


"The faster announcement of the soybean import policy will help feedstuff and livestock producers make accurate plans for soybean imports and livestock production while also helping to lower stocks burdens," Virachai said.


Last year, Thailand imported 1.53 million tons of soybeans worth THB13.9 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Soybean imports from January to July this year totalled 1.07 million tons, the ministry's data shows.


Thailand is forecast to produce around 270,000 tons of soybeans in 2003- 04, according to the ministry's figure.