Middle Eastern countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are seeking permission from the government to set up rice processing factories in Thailand, Rice Department chief Prasert Kosalwit says.
Mr Prasert said yesterday the Arab countries had made the request through the Foreign Ministry.
It is the second attempt by Middle Eastern nations to use Thai soil for agricultural purposes.
Last year several Arab countries sought permission from the government to rent farm land to grow rice but they opted instead to invest in Thailand's neighbouring countries after the government turned down the proposal.
However, due to a shortage of skilled personnel and poor irrigation systems, rice productivity in neighbouring countries did not meet Middle Eastern investors' expectations, Mr Prasert said. He said if the government allowed Middle Eastern investors to invest in rice processing factories here, the government should make sure their rice markets were not the same as the markets for Thai rice.
The government should prevent the Middle Eastern investors from competing with Thai rice processing businesses and stop Thai rice processing businesses from being sold to foreigners.
Mr Prasert said he was also concerned about the problems of mixed rice stocks.
High rice prices in Thailand had tempted some rice exporters to smuggle in rice from neighbouring countries where it is cheaper and mix it with Thai rice for export.At the same time, Thai traders have handed Thai jasmine rice seeds to farmers in Cambodia, he said.