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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  March 2011

Thai hybrid rice imports needed

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The Thai Seed Trade Association (THASTA) is urging the government to relax its rules and allow the import of hybrid rice seed varieties to further develop commercial sales.

Association President Pacholk Pongpanich said THASTA has been attempting to convince the government to use imported hybrid rice seeds for experimental trials but imports of plant varieties are prohibited under the Agriculture Ministry's Plant Quarantine Service Act.

Mr. Pacholk wants the government to relax its regulations on rice-seed imports for the sake of research, similar to its approval of private development of hybrid maize in 1982.

The association, which includes multinational seed firms, is confident these cross-bred strains would help increase productivity of Thailand's rice, which is low at 450 kilogrammes on average. He encouraged the government to ease the regulations and open the door for intensive research, similar to 1982 when the government allowed private companies to develop hybrid maize.

"We used to have 3 million tonnes of maize from 12 million rai of plantations. Now Thailand is among the world's most efficient maize producers with 4 million tonnes from only 6 million rai," he said.

THASTA has joined a committee of private and public agencies that hope to conduct experimental farms by using six locally developed hybrid rice varieties and 12 imported hybrid strains to measure productivity and quality.The trials will use the popular Thai rice varieties Kor Khor 31, Phitsanulok 2, Pathum Thani 1, and Kor Khor 41 to compare production between native and hybrid varieties.

Based on initial talks with the Rice Department, the experimental trials could be organised at departmental centres some time between July and November of this year, and December 2011 to June 2012.

Though the Rice Department is enthusiastic, officials from the Agriculture Ministry are concerned about exotic imported diseases or hybrids lowering the quality of Thai rice.

Members of the THASTA such as Pioneer, Syngenta, Pacific Seed, Monsanto and Bayer have been active in the research and development of hybrid rice seeds and some are big suppliers for rice-producing countries such as India, Vietnam and China.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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