September 25, 2003



Thailand Approves Continued Unlimited Soybean Imports

The Thai Cabinet has agreed to maintain its zero quota limit on soybean imports next year while maintaining a zero tariff rate on the commodity, according to a statement posted on the government's Web site Wednesday.


However, the unlimited import rule will apply only to authorized importers that use the beans as raw materials for the production of food and beverages, cooking oil and animal feedstuff, according to the statement.


Thailand abolished its import quota on soybeans in 2002 and has allowed an unlimited volume of imports at a zero tariff rate since then, after local consumer trade associations protested that limiting soybean imports would harm domestic consumption. The country had placed a ceiling on soybean imports at 1.5 million metric tons a year in 2001.


Thailand's World Trade Organisation agreements require that Thailand complies with commitments to open its market to imports of agricultural produce, including soy products, from fellow member states. Most of Thailand's soybeans come from WTO members Argentina, the U.S. and Brazil.


Under the import policy for next year, soybean importers will have to buy all locally produced soybeans from farmers at a guaranteed price along with the imports, the statement said. This is to protect local soybean farmers from price falls amid unlimited imports.


Last year, Thailand imported 1.53 million tons of soybeans worth THB13.9 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. This year's soybean imports from January to July totaled 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 figures.