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Up to 170,000 farmers should be paid this month

Some 170,000 farmers, who were granted rice-pledging receipts by December 9 last year, are expected to receive their overdue payments this month after caretaker Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong signed the release of the Bt20-billion advance funding from the national budget yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Farmers' Network handed a letter to the finance minister's representative to demand early payment for the pledged rice, and threatening to gather at the ministry if they had not been paid within the next week.

Supat Eauchai, executive vice president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), said yesterday that the bank had already received the Bt20 billion from the Foreign Trade Department of the Commerce Ministry and would immediately pay what was owed to farmers by the government under the rice-pledging scheme.

"Combined with another Bt2 billion to be derived from sales of rice from the state's stockpiles, about 170,000 growers are expected to receive their rice-pledging money this month," he said.

However, rice farmers in Nakhon Ratchasima might not yet be paid for their pledged produce because they received pledging receipts after December 9, said a representative of the BAAC's Nakhon Ratchasima branch. The branch also wants the Commerce Ministry to allocate cash earned from the sale of rice on a proportional basis, which would enable growers in each area to use the money to repay their debts and build up a cash flow for the next planting period.

In a separate development, a representative of farmers' groups in 30 provinces in the central, northeastern and western regions yesterday submitted a letter to Finance Ministry permanent secretary Rungson Sriworasat to demand overdue payments for the latest rice crop, which was harvested from October through to February.

"The government has not paid a total of Bt60 billion to farmers," said Thawee Weerasak, chairman of the Federation of Thai Farmers' Network.

He said Kittiratt had promised the group that farmers would be paid Bt4.5 billion per day for a week. However, most of the farmers have not been paid at all, leaving them in serious financial trouble - with some resorting to loan sharks charging high interest rates.

"If the minister does not do what he promised, the farmers in these provinces will travel with their paddy to the Finance Ministry to demand the money from him themselves," he added. Moreover, Thawee said the incoming rice crop had fetched as little as Bt3,000 to Bt4,500 per tonne, while the plantation cost was Bt6,500 per tonne, excluding land rental.


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