Previous rice schemes probably off the table
New measures to help rice farmers deal with low paddy prices and spiralling production costs have yet to be concluded, but the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is unlikely to adopt any of the previous programmes such as rice pledging or price guarantees.
According to a source from the meeting of the rice panel chaired yesterday by Gen Chatchai Sarikalya, deputy head of economic affairs for the NCPO, the panel did not reach any decisions about new farmer aid measures, blaming conflicting rice-related information from agencies such as the Commerce Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.
Gen Chatchai has assigned all relevant agencies to revise the figures and resubmit them to a meeting on Thursday.
The source said the Commerce Ministry had proposed several options to help farmers when rice fell below benchmark prices, but Gen Chatchai rejected the proposals and ordered the ministry to study new methods.
The panel has yet to reach a conclusion on the average production cost of farmers, the source said, adding that differences remained in the price structures proposed by different sources.
Gen Chatchai was also quoted as ordering the Commerce Ministry to stop disposing of state rice stocks and to shift the focus to tackling the farmers’ plight and falling paddy prices.
Recently, Nipon Puapongsakorn, a distinguished fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said it was imperative for the state to stop selling rice stocks so that the NCPO could assess the exact amount of pledged rice, the amount exported, the amount withdrawn from state warehouses, the amount of good-quality or rotten rice, the amount that has disappeared and the total expense incurred.
After that, the junta could embark on a nationwide inspection of rice stocks, with independent groups and surveyors also taking part.
Mr Nipon said while it would mean a lost opportunity to dispose of rice stocks, once the exact amount was available and clear, then it should help to dispel market speculation and raise rice prices.
The source said yesterday’s meeting also aired the possibility of setting up a farmers’ fund and insurance market for farm products.
Rawee Rungruang, who leads a network of farmers, said most of them favoured mechanisms that curbed price slumps and subsidies for their production costs.
He proposed the junta offer a subsidy on production costs in the amount of 3,000 baht a tonne, citing the loss-making paddy market price of 6,500 to 7,000 baht a tonne and average production cost of 6,000 baht a tonne.
Mr Rawee said farmers would be more than happy to fetch more than 10,000 baht a tonne.
He also urged the NCPO to develop networking for rice farmers and dust off plans for local communities to upgrade to producing quality grains.
In the long term, he wants to see a farmers council as a venue for brainstorming ways to improve farmers’ lives.
First published: ฺBangkok Post, June 10, 2014