Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the opening ceremony of Thai Rice Promotion Day today (December 17): (English only)
Minister, Consul-General, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to join you all here this morning in celebrating the Thai Rice Promotion Day.
Thailand and Hong Kong have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial economic relationship. Thailand is our 10th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to over HK$46 billion. And rice features prominently among your major export items. Indeed, Thailand is our largest rice supplier, and its market share has been increasing steadily over the years. In the first 10 months of this year, we have already imported over 230,000 tonnes, accounting for some 86% of our total import of rice in the period.
Rice is our key staple food. We have no local production at all. We rely solely on imports and the stable supply of high quality rice from Thailand over the years has contributed, in no small measure, to providing us with the necessary assurance.
Since January 2003, we have abolished the import quota system. The amount of rice to be imported is now decided by individual merchants in accordance with their assessment of market demand and their own marketing capability. We believe that this could provide for greater flexibility and facilitate a free market environment for the trading of rice.
You will not be surprised that "Thai Fragrant rice" is very popular in Hong Kong. It has become a brand name among consumers here, symbolising "quality". I believe that events like the Thai Rice Promotion Day will further enhance the popularity of Thai rice in Hong Kong. It also provides a valuable opportunity for different parties, including Thai exporters, Hong Kong importers, and Government officials, to exchange experiences, establish closer working relationships and create even more business opportunities.
Finally, may I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2003