Thailand continues to explore ways of deepening its ongoing collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to explore areas of further cooperation to strengthen its regional food security. H.E. Mr. Thanatip Upatising, the Ambassador of Thailand, visited IRRI in Philippines, on 17 January in this regard to strengthen its current partnership with Thailand. “Thank you so much for the kindness and hospitality you extended to me,” said H.E. Thanatip. “This is my first time at IRRI. In fact, IRRI is a renowned institute since I was young. I came here to exchange information and see what can be done for the benefit of IRRI and member countries.” he emphasized.
IRRI’s Director General Matthew Morell emphasized the importance of Thai-IRRI collaboration in rice research. He underlined the benefits that flow from rice research into the rest of the Thai economy, as well as the economies of several other Asian nations. Morell also requested the Ambassador’s assistance in facilitating the Host Country Agreement between Thailand and IRRI, which will set the framework for IRRI’s research in Thailand. The Ambassador was briefed by Bruce Tolentino, IRRI’s deputy director general for Communication and Partnerships, and several scientists and rice experts at the institute on past as well as current IRRI-Thailand cooperation in rice research. IRRI has at least 10 ongoing projects with partners in Thailand. The collaborative activities between IRRI and Thailand cover the whole rice value chain, from breeding to postharvest including training and capacity building.
Although Thailand is the leading exporter of Indica rice in the world today, the Thai ambassador related how many Thai farmers experienced problems and confusion when exporting rice in the 1960s because of import requirements. H.E. Thanatip recalled, “If the grain is 70 percent intact, we still classify it as ‘whole grain’ in Thailand, but in Canada and Europe, they classify whole grain rice as at least 90 percent intact. Therefore most of the shipments were rejected by the importer earlier terming it as broken rice and that created a lot of problems and confusion.”
To counter this problem, scientist Dr. Sarah Beebout explained that the IRRI’s Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) is a multi-stakeholder platform that aims to harmonize the different quality standards and create tools for rice growers to use in order to meet the standards. “Different countries are always going to have somewhat different import requirement,” Beebout said. “One of the parts of SRP is training people how to grow rice through the standard, which is also connected with their target market and specifically understanding the demand. If you know exactly what you’re getting into then it’s possible to package your product so that it does meet import standards,” She added.