Mekong nations to form OPEC-style rice cartel: Thai PM

BANGKOK, April 30, 2008 (AFP) – Thailand’s prime minister said Wednesday his country had agreed in principle to form a rice price-fixing cartel with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as costs of the staple grain rocket. The grouping of Mekong nations would be similar to the oil cartel OPEC, and would be called the Organisation of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC).

“I have talked with Myanmar and invited them to join the rice exporting countries cartel, which will include Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, to fix the price,” Premier Samak Sundaravej told reporters.

He said Myanmar’s Prime Minister General Thein Sein, in Thailand for an official visit, had agreed to join, even through the military-ruled nation was not currently a large rice exporter.

“Thailand will help them in terms of technical support to improve their production for export,” Samak said.

Samak said Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia had also agreed to join, and Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said OREC should begin meeting soon.

Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter, and shipped an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of rice overseas last year.

World rice prices have soared this year, a trend blamed on higher energy and fertiliser