Global shipping crunch pulls Thai rice exports to lowest volume

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    Globally, shipping container turnaround times have lengthened because of COVID-19-related handling capacity cuts in Europe and the United States, with freight rates sky-rocketing and fewer containers returning to Asia. This has created shortages in Asian ports of the ubiquitous boxes.

    Chookiat said about half of Thailand’s rice exports rely on containers, including the premium-grade jasmine rice that was last year’s bright spot and has so far retained demand in wealthier markets such as the United States and Canada.

    “There’s still good demand for our jasmine rice, but we can’t export much of it since November because of the container shortage,” said Chookiat.

    Thailand exported 1.29 million tons of jasmine rice through November 2020, up 1.57 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Commerce Ministry said.

    Thailand’s container shortage was expected to last for six months, as China and Vietnam also vie to secure containers, said Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council.

    “In the short term, we just don’t have containers because they don’t return,” she told Reuters.

    Thailand exports about 10 million containers’ worth of goods per year and will need to additionally import about 1.5 million empty containers this year, Ghanyapad said.