Canned food manufactures have asked the government to negotiate a deal on their behalf to allow the sale of their products direct to the relief organizations under the United Nations.

As Permphan Neowakul, president of Thailand's largest canned rice producer Albatross Co, explained to the Bangkok Post: "It would be better if we could expand our market by selling directly to the UN."

"The UN normally does not buy food from small manufacturers, but has big firms in Singapore gather and distribute the products," he added.

An official from Thailand's Export Promotion Department revealed that the government was willing to help manufacturers by recommending them to the UN. Furthermore, he said that the New York-based commercial affairs office had invited buyers from the UN to visit Thai factories and exporters.

A report recently published by the UN revealed that its operations require goods and services that form an international market worth an annual US$3bn for the suppliers. No more than 2% of the total procurement orders placed by the UN are worth over US$100,000 however and the average value of a UN contract is small, at about US$20,000.

Most UN purchases are made in developed countries, but the developing world's share is increasing and in 1997 it was 43%.