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Kittiratt set to release Bt20 bn for unpaid rice farmers

Caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong says he is ready to release an advance payment of Bt20 billion from the national budget so overdue payments to farmers can be made under the rice-pledging scheme.



Caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong says he is ready to release an advance payment of Bt20 billion from the national budget so overdue payments to farmers can be made under the rice-pledging scheme.

Kittiratt said yesterday that he had not yet signed off on the release of the money because of the disbursement process, but he was ready to sign it so farmers owed money before last December 9 could be paid.

He said the Commerce and Finance ministries had cooperated closely to free up the money and no conflicts had been reported.

However, he said the disbursement of the Bt20 billion would be linked to the sale of rice from government stockpiles. The money has to be returned to the state's coffers by May 31, so the Commerce Ministry has to earn up to Bt10 billion a month from its rice sales.

"The two ministries will do their best to hand as much money as possible to farmers during this caretaker government," Kittiratt said. "After that, this will be up to the next government."

The Commerce Ministry recently announced the result of its general auction on Monday for 517,000 tonnes of rice. It said it had approved the sale of 180,000 tonnes after negotiating with winning bidders.

The ministry said it had also approved the additional sale of 500,000 tonnes to exporters who had orders from other countries.

"The money expected to be earned from the two lots is around Bt8.5 billion to Bt9 billion," Kittiratt said.

Thursday's scheduled auction of 244,000 tonnes of rice via the Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand was postponed until March 26 as there were only three bidders.

As of Thursday, of the 1.52 million farmers who pledged 11.62 million tonnes of paddy rice with the government worth Bt190.81 billion, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has paid Bt71.22 billion to 581,284 farmers for 4.39 millions tonnes of pledged rice.

The government owes Bt119.5 billion to almost a million farmers for the pledging project that ended on February 28.

Meanwhile, the BAAC reported that as of Wednesday, farmers' assistance funds had raised Bt846.29 million.


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