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Better rice policies needed

Farmers speak out at forum

AT THE FIRST Citizens' Forum for Reform, farmers made it clear that deep down they yearn for sustainable solutions - not rice-pledging schemes or crop-price guarantees.

"We hope all stakeholders will be engaged in formulating long-term national rice policies, something politicians can't change," Farmers' Network Association president Rawee Rungrueang said.

"We want something like a national economic and social development plan for farmers," he said.

Held in Nakhon Sawan this week, the event was part of a mobile-seminar initiative born out of a collaboration between Krung-thep Turakij newspaper and the NOW26 TV station. Both organisations are under Nation Multimedia Group (NMG).

The first seminar was held under the theme "Farmers' Sustainability is Thailand's Sustainability".

Rawee said farmers who ran into trouble were those who had acted in response to government policy.

"Farmers in two other main groups, namely those in contract farming and self-reliant farmers, are doing fine," he said.

Rice Department adviser Pramote Wanitchanont said it was high time the rice industry was reformed to ensure that the development of quality rice and those who cultivate it become the focus - not price.

Pramote said a strategy should be drawn up to solve poverty and protect farmers from unfair pricing, disasters and exploitation. He believes the country's rice crisis took place because the public was left out of the policy-making process.

He suggested establishing a committee comprising representatives from various groups and having no political involvement to take care of rice matters and ensure that the majority benefits.

"Politicians would be only management people who carry out rural people's consensus," he added.

NMG chairman Suthichai Yoon invited the participants to attend the next forum, in which strategies for the proposed rice committee would be discussed.

Suthichai said the outcomes from this week's forum would be passed on to policy-makers.

The input included a call by Somporn Isvilanonada, of the Knowledge Network Institute of Thailand, for rice to be viewed as an economic crop.

Somporn said it should be based on an industrial thinking system involving marketing, cost-cutting and a central market establishment, which would help farmers in the long run.

Nakhon Sawan Chamber of Commerce chairman Komkrit Thammaratrakul called for the promotion of farmers' ability to compete in the world market and use education to create a new generation of farmers.

A team from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives proposed the "three reductions, three additions" road map for the nine lower North provinces from 2014-2018.

The reductions were for costs, risk and chemical use on soil, while the additions were for farming efficiency, soil preparation and seed selection, and produce value.

Biothai director Witoon Lianchamroon wants a goal set to promote organic farming, especially high-quality and environmentally friendly rice, and for a solution to the high cost of renting land to be found.

Sumeth Laomoraphorn, chief executive officer of International Trading Business at Charoen Pokphand Group, urged farmers to strengthen cooperative systems for bargaining power.

Earth Net Foundation vice chairman Tawatchai Tositrakul said many people now ate organic rice and this helped promote farmer sustainability as they would always have buyers for the produce.


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