Only those in central region will be affected
Farmers say they are willing to accept the government’s latest proposal to continue buying paddy at 15,000 baht a tonne under the pledging scheme for the 2013-14 main crop but limit pledging to only once a year.
But they demand the government improve the pledging process by allowing farmer representatives to participate in inspecting rice quality and moisture content, as well as millers’ preservation methods.
The government should also support farmers by helping them grow more high-quality rice varieties and reduce their production costs and chemical use.
“After discussions with representatives of farmers from all regions, they say the latest proposal is acceptable,as most farmers in the North and Northeast and those outside irrigation areas can grow rice only once a year anyway,”said Prapat Panyachartraksa, chairman of the National Farmers Council.
“Those to be affected are farmers in the well-irrigated central region who can grow rice more than once a year,”he added.
Prasit Booncheuy, president of the Thai Rice Farmers Association, agreed the government is likely to face heavy protests from farmers in the central region.
“Farmers from the Northeast will for sure accept the latest proposal by the government, as their production cost stands at only 4,500-5,500 baht a tonne,” he said.
Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said last week the government might continue to buy rice at 15,000 baht a tonne under the pledging scheme for the 2013-14 main crop but limit pledging to only once a year.
The exact prices and pledging amount will be finalised over the next two weeks after talks with representatives from the rice farmer groups, which earlier proposed a pledging price of 13,500 baht a tonne.
The most likely option will require working capital of 300 billion baht a year and limit the government’s loss to 80-100 billion baht a year, according to Mr Niwatthamrong.
Other options include cutting the pledging price to 12,000 baht, which Mr Niwatthamrong described as “too cruel” to farmers.
The current pledging price is 15,000 baht a tonne, with a cap of 500,000 baht per household.
According to the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI)’s esti-mates, of Thailand’s 4 million ricefarming households, over 3 million now grow rice once a year, leaving only 800,000-900,000 families growing more than once a year (the second crops) mostly in the central region.
Nipon Puapongsakorn , a distinguished fellow at TDRI said the government’s latest proposal would for sure help reduce fiscal pressure, as it will limit the amount of paddy into the scheme.
He estimated the new proposal would help cut paddy entering the scheme by 20% from 20 million tonnes.
However, he warned the key concern is how the government could effectively control its spending at the planned 300 billion baht for pledging and 80 billion baht for losses, as by nature pledging programmes are generally extended.
He added farmers’ registration procedure is also another challenge because it includes farmland owners and those who rent the land to grow rice.
“In any case, change is essential,”he said.”We believe the programme will definitely collapse if the government remains determined to buy every grain as announced earlier. It may take four years to clear the stocks.”
Source: Bangkok Post