The Nation



Cassava farmers demand pledging

A hundred cassava farmers from the Central and Northeastern regions marched to the Commerce Ministry yesterday calling for the government to provide a pledging project as the price of their crop is falling.

The farmers met with Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, the caretaker commerce minister, to call for the government approve a pledging project for cassava rather than a subsidy aimed at easing production costs.

Niwatthumrong said that since the current administration is a caretaker government, it could not approve any subsidy project that required a large budget. The ministry would therefore ask the Election Commission (EC) to consider the farmers' demand.

Previously, the Yingluck Shinawatra government planned to propose a direct subsidy to help cassava farmers buy equipment and other material, instead of pledging their output as in the past, in the upcoming harvest season to minimise spending and increase efficiency of crop management.

Under that plan, the ministry would provide a subsidy for agricultural equipment directly to 497,000 cassava farmers on the basis of about 50 satang per kilogram of output.

However, cassava farmers favour a pledging project, which would be more lucrative.

Chakrit Sosuwan, a farmers' representative from Serngsang, Buri Ram, said the direct subsidy would encourage cassava traders to pressure farmers to lower their prices. The price of cassava has fallen gradually during the current harvest season. If the government provided a direct subsidy to the cost of production, the price in the market would continue to fall.

Currently, the price of a kilogram cassava is Bt2.10, down considerably from early this month. The price is expected to continue a gradual decline, while farmers claim their cost of production is more than Bt2.15 a kilo.

Niwatthumrong said the Commerce Ministry would also need to seek the EC's endorsement for selling rice from its stockpiles under new government-to-government contracts and through general auctions. This would ensure that the ministry does not breach the regulations regarding a caretaker government.

He said many countries wanted to purchase rice from Thailand under G2G contracts.

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