Commerce Ministry looks for alternatives for drought-hit farmers

Economy March 11, 2016 01:00

By The Nation

THE COMMERCE Ministry will try to secure markets for crops that consume less water and have a short harvest period since farmers have switched to these in order to cope with severe drought that has affected 22 provinces.

The ministry will also help farmers sell their community products to supplement their income this year.

Deputy permanent secretary Somchart Sroythong said the ministry had helped secure markets for green/yellow beans, peanuts, corn, tapioca, fresh vegetables, lemongrass, pumpkins, onions, tomatoes, coconuts, durians, bananas and passion fruit.

As for farming areas that are not close to water or irrigation sources and cannot grow alternative crops, the Commerce Ministry’s provincial offices have advised farmers to start producing items their communities specialise in so they can compensate for the loss of income.

The products range from garments and basketry to woodcarvings, utensils and decoration items. The ministry has helped find buyers for such products and is educating farmers on the basics of marketing to ensure they produce items that meet the demand.

Somchart also believes that the prices for fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs and pork this year could be higher than normal because of lower supply. However, the ministry has taken logistical steps to minimise the chance of shortages and prevent a sharp rise in prices.

The Commerce Ministry has held 285 “Blue Flag Fairs” in the 22 drought-hit provinces since November, with the target being 400 such fairs by next month. So far, these fairs have generated Bt31.97 million and will help ease the cost of living for 130,998 people, equivalent to Bt21.31 million, once the remaining 115 fairs are held, Somchart claimed.

The ministry’s provincial offices nationwide are also monitoring the prices of goods and services to protect consumers from merchants who may hoard goods in order to push prices higher, Somchart added.