BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand, one of the world’s leading rice exporters, is forecast to export 13% less rice in the 2021-22 marketing year, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The year-on-year decline to 5.8 million tonnes from 6.2 million is attributed to ship container shortages and higher transportation costs, the report said.

“Freight cost to the United States is currently five times higher than before the COVID-19 outbreak,” the USDA said. “Thai rice exporters were only able to deliver 60% of all the rice contracts in July 2021.”

The USDA also noted that exports to Singapore declined by 52% compared to the same period a year ago.

“In addition, many ASEAN countries are experiencing their worst wave of COVID-19, causing a slowdown in the demand for Thai rice,” the USDA said.

The USDA said the pandemic also is affecting Thai rice production by creating labor shortages at farms and factories.

Still, the USDA forecasts rice output at 21 million tonnes, same as the previous forecast and 11% higher than in 2020-21.