The Thai government is to lift import quotas for animal feed raw materials for up to three years to help manufacturers make longer-term business plans.
Import quotas for soybean meal and fishmeal are normally reviewed every year but will now be reviewed every three years. However, maize quotas will still be reviewed every year.
Feed producers and soybean oil manufacturers have long complained that annual reviews, and delays in decisions on quotas, resulted in shortages of raw materials and affected food prices.
Currently the import tariff for soybean meal is 2%. Rates for fishmeal and maize are based on the origin of the products.
Yanyong Phuangrach, the permanent secretary for the Commerce Ministry, said the 2% tariff on soybean meal would remain to help domestic farmers.
Eight feed meal industry associations will be allowed to import soybean meal on condition that they also buy agreed amounts of domestic soybeans.
Demand for soybeans this year is estimated at 2.075 million tonnes while domestic production is only 150,000 tonnes.
Fishmeal imports are duty-free from Asean, the US and Australia under free trade agreements. Imports from Japan will face a 1.67% tariff until March 2012 under the Thailand-Japan free trade agreement, but will be duty-free from April 2012 to December 2014. The normal tariff for fishmeal is 15%.
Pornsil Patcharintanakul, president of the Thai Feedmill Association, welcomed the decisions, saying producers would no longer have to wait for import permission every year.
However, the association would like to see the 2% tariff waived as production costs in Thailand are higher than in competing countries including Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Mr Yanyong said the government had to review maize imports yearly because local production was high, and imports would be allowed from March to July.
Demand for maize last year was 4.35 million tonnes while the projection this year is 4.52 million tonnes.