Thailand, the second-largest rice exporter in the world, is pushing farmers to cut rice growing as part of its water conservation efforts. The Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) has called for options to preserve water for consumption in light of the decision, which comes as the nation struggles with a lack of rainfall. The ONWR is advising farmers to plant crops with shorter growing seasons and lower water requirements as part of this campaign.

Surasri Kidtimonton, the ONWR’s secretary general, emphasized the urgent need to concentrate on water for consumption and provide perennial crops, which don’t need to be replanted every year, priority water use. Alternative crops like millets only need between 650 and 1,200 liters of water for the same output, in contrast to rice, which needs an average of 2,500 liters for every kilogram of rough rice farmed.

Financing Sustainable Development Amid Crises, Conflicts, and Beyond: A Case Study from Thailand | United Nations Development ProgrammeEspecially in light of India’s recent prohibition on exports of non-basmati white rice in order to maintain enough supply for local markets, the proposal for lower rice planting might have major ramifications for the world rice market. India, the top exporter of rice in the world and the source of 40% of the world’s rice trade, enacted the restriction last month, possibly impacting millions.

The senior economist at Rabobank, Oscar Tjakra, issued a warning that the world’s already record-high rice prices might rise much more if Thailand’s rice output were to significantly decline. Part of the price increase may be ascribed to shortages, with rice emerging as a desirable substitute when the cost of other main grains rose in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Despite the ONWR’s mandate, it’s unclear how it would affect Thai farmers’ planting choices. Tjakra emphasized that despite attempts to save water, farmers could still be enticed to continue rice farming by the attraction of high worldwide rice export prices.

Although Thailand has a history of encouraging water conservation, experts think that the absence of a well-established water rights structure in the nation limits the impact of such activities. Thailand’s efforts to promote water conservation, according to Jeremy Zwinger, CEO of The Rice Trader, have had little effect on water use.

The country’s plan to encourage farmers to use water-efficient crops might have significant effects on the rice market as Thailand struggles with poor rainfall and water constraint. Because big exporters like Thailand might potentially impair the supply of rice, the situation deserves constant observation.

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