Thailand to sell $172m of rice to Iran after sanctions lifted

Most of the rice is 100 per cent B grade white rice, according to the Thai Rice Exporters' Association. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand, one of the world's top rice exporters, has signed agreements to sell 300,000 tonnes of rice to Iran worth 4.3 billion baht (S$171.62 million), the Thai commerce ministry said on Wednesday (Feb 3).

Commerce Minister Apiradee Tantraporn said four memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed in a deal that would see white and jasmine rice exported to Iran.

The agreements were signed between three Thai and four Iranian private firms, she said.

A Thai trade delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is in Iran this week to seek trade opportunities after US and EU lifted sanctions against Teheran.

The Thai Rice Exporters' Association said last week that Thailand would negotiate the rice sale during the visit.

Most of the rice is 100 per cent B grade white rice, according to the ministry.

The grain is quoted at US$350 per tonne but could be around US$425 per tonne with sea freight charges included, said Mr Phaiboon Kuonsongtum, a rice trader in the delegation.

"It's a good sign that the Thai government acted quickly and sent a trade delegation to Iran, as Iran was a big market for Thai rice," said Mr Phaiboon, adding that Iran used to import up to 800,000 tonnes of Thai rice per year before sanctions were imposed.

Ms Chutima Bunyapraphasara, the Thai commerce ministry's permanent secretary, said Thailand had asked Iran's health ministry to send officials to inspect the quality of the grain.

After the inspection, Iran will issue a document allowing the import of Thai rice, she said.

Ms Chutima said shipment of the grain would start in six to eight months.

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