The Nation


rice pledging

Farmers unsure of benefits from govt scheme; rising costs a worry

Farmers unsure of benefits from govt scheme; rising costs a worry

Rice farmers are unsure whether to bring their crop under the rice-pledging programme as they are doubtful about the benefits compared with the previous income-guarantee scheme because of rising costs.

The pledging programme took off yesterday as scheduled. The government opened counters in 29 provinces for farmers to participate in the project. The scheme has been delayed in some provinces because of the floods. Farmers say the price subsidy alone is not enough. They want the government to help reduce the cost of production and operations. Rice plantation costs have been skyrocketing each year because of rising wages and fertiliser prices.

Farmers also face higher costs of harvesting with a daily wage of Bt300 per rai, and Bt1,500-Bt2,000 for truck service to carry the rice from plantation areas to rice mills, for the rice-pledging.

Sombun Kongpoh, a farmer in Bang Bua Thong district, Nonthaburi, said he was not sure which of the two schemes - the pledging project or price guarantee - would give him better returns.

"The cost of fertiliser, transport, and labour for harvesting rice have increased each year. I earned about Bt140,000 from the guarantee project, while the pledging project is expected to give similar returns," he said.

Rising expenses

Sombun has 20 rai (3.2 hectares) of rice plantation, which is expected to produce 18 tonnes of paddy rice. He estimates the total production cost for his field at about Bt100,000.

However, the cost of fertiliser has gone up continuously. Fertiliser for the main crop costs Bt750 per 50-kilogram bag, up from Bt650.

Meanwhile, during a videoconference meeting with pledging spots nationwide, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said from the Commerce Ministry that the government was confident the pledging would create higher incomes for farmers.

She also instructed concerned officials to monitor the pledging closely and prevent fraud or rice circumvention during the pledging.

Deputy Commerce Minister Poom Sarapol said the government would ask Rak Prathet Thai MP Chuwit Kamolvisit to provide a video clip to the police and the Department of Special Investigation for further investigation into rice smuggling.

On Thursday, Chuwit showed four clips of smuggling of paddy rice, gas cylinders and workers from Cambodia. Because of the high subsidy price of Bt15,000 per tonne for paddy in Thailand, smuggling gangs are trying to bring in rice from neighbouring countries, where the cost of production is lower.

Yanyong Phungrach, permanent secretary at the Commerce Ministry, said it would not be easy for millers to smuggle in rice as the government had restricted rice movement in border provinces.

To prevent rice circumvention and corruption under the pledging scheme, the government is also planning to set up a national committee to monitor the programme.

On the first day of the project, many farmers expressed interest in joining it, as they had managed to avoid the floods. So far, 120 of 688 millers have joined the programme. Some millers have been affected by the floods, while some have not yet signed contracts with the government to join the pledging scheme.

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