11 July 2024

Thailand did not participate in the World’s Best Rice 2023 competition, held during the International World Rice Commission in Philippines, and will not do so in the coming years, Chukiat Opaswongse, honorary president of Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA), said yesterday.

His announcement came one day after Vietnam’s rice variety, ST25, was voted the best rice variety of the 30 varieties submitted for competition. Only three varieties from Vietnam, India and Cambodia reached the final round. The best variety was unanimously selected by a group of chefs in a blind tasting.

Chukiat explained that if the Thai Hom Mali variety does not win first prize, people will question why Thailand did not win or what rice varieties were entered for competition.

Out of 14 competitions, he said that Thai rice varieties were voted the world’s best rice for seven years, including in 2020 and 2021, when the Hom Mali 105 variety was voted the best rice for two years in a row. In 2023, however, Cambodia’s Phka Romdoul fragrant rice won the top prize.

Vietnam’s ST25 is a blend of three rice varieties, Thai Hom Mali, India’s basmati and Japanese rice.  “It is long grain, fragrant, sticky and soft after being cooked,” said Chukiat, adding that ST25 has other advantages, including being cheaper than Thai Hom Mali, of which only one crop can be grown per year.

He said rice exporting companies can, however, submit their preferred rice varieties to the competition on TREA’s behalf.

Associate Professor Somporn Isvilanonda, a senior researcher at the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand, said that the Thai government spends between 400 and 500 billion baht a year to subsidise rice farmers, but spends just 200 million on research and development of rice varieties, compared to Vietnam and Cambodia which have spent larger amounts on R&D.

Additionally, he claimed, Vietnam has more rice researchers, including a new generation of foreign-educated researchers to help the rice industry, which is considered Vietnam’s strong point.