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May 24, 2008

Samak promises more rice exports

Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, during his visit to the Philippines on Thursday, promised to sell rice to Manila at "negotiable" rates, reported AFP.

Thai premier made the open-ended pledge during talks with his host President Gloria Arroyo, according to Filipino Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

"No volumes were discussed. The price was also negotiable" and any sales would be a "government-to-government" transaction, Yap said.

Asked if Manila would take up Bangkok's offer, Yap said the Philippines now had "flexibilities" because it has contracted the bulk of the required imports and also because "we have a very strong dry season harvest, stronger than last year."

He said the Arroyo government was "going to evaluate all of these factors, if and when we choose to procure from Thailand and our other suppliers."

The 72 year-old Samak flew into Manila and was given full military honours at Malacanang presidential palace, where the two leaders met before attending an evening banquet.

Among Samak's announced activities for Friday is a morning trip to a Manila market to check food prices. Protocol officers also hope to have him visit the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute near Manila.

In a report from Thai News Agency Samak was quoted as saying that Thailand was willing to sell the rice at an amicable relationship-based price should there be a rice shortage, He added that the Philippines can count on a diplomatic channel and a ministerial-level negotiation to purchase the rice immediately.

Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter. The Philippines, which is working to boost its stocks of the grain, needs to fill its production gap of some 2.7 million tonnes of the staple cereal this year to increase its stocks amid soaring prices and tight supplies that has led to food riots in dozens of countries around the world.

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