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Thailand’s Hom Mali dethroned as World’s Best Rice after losing fragrance, exporters warn
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2022
The Thai Rice Exporters Association (TREA) has urged farmers and researchers to improve their strains after Thailand lost its crown to Cambodia in the World’s Best Rice Awards 2022.
Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety was crowned the World’s Best Rice at the World Rice Conference in Phuket on November 17. Thailand’s Hom Mali rice, which had come top for the previous two years, fell to second. Fragrant rice varieties from Vietnam and Laos were awarded third and fourth, respectively.
Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol won for the fifth time, while Hom Mali holds the record with seven awards.
“The final round between Thailand and Cambodia was neck-and-neck and Hom Mali lost by only one point,” said TREA honorary president Chukiat Opaswong on Monday.
“I asked one of the judges who is a professional chef from the United States why we lost, and he said the Hom Mali rice this year is not as fragrance as it used to be.”
Chukiat said the rice that TREA sent to the competition was grown in Northeast, which received too much rain this year. This might have diluted the rice’s fragrance when it was cooked.
To win back the crown next year, Thai rice growers and researchers must improve their Hom Mali strains to preserve its signature fragrance and make it resistant to weather conditions, he added. Growers must also reduce the use of chemical fertiliser and insecticide that could affect the fragrance.
Chukiat predicted the competition between Hom Mali and Phka Rumduol in the global market will be fiercer, as Cambodia is likely to raise the price for its newly crowned rice. Hom Mali is still slightly more expensive, at US$750 per tonne versus Phka Rumduol at $720.
“Also, soft white rice from Vietnam is becoming more popular in markets like the Philippines, Malaysia and China, while very little has been done to improve Thailand’s white rice strain over the years,” he added. “It is time we focused on breeding to produce better rice instead of using a price mechanism to fight rival rice-producing countries.”
TREA expects rice exports this year to reach 7.5 million tonnes, driven by demand from Iraq which will import over one million tonnes. Exports next year are estimated to rise to 8 million tonnes if the crop is not hit by drought and the baht does not strengthen beyond 35 to the US dollar.