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Help from rice mills could offer lifeline to govt

NAKHON RATCHASIMA MILLS OFFER PADDY AS SURETY ON LOANS FOR CASH-STRAPPED FARMERS

THE CARETAKER government would appear to have an opportunity for survival if rice mills commit to giving a hand and help suffering farmers awaiting overdue payments under the flagship rice-pledging scheme.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry has accelerated as much as possible the release of rice from the state's inventory. But some farmers' groups are maintaining their protest rallies to keep pressure on the government to pay them off, threatening to block all lanes of the Asia Highway routes.

Eighteen rice mills in are committed to help farmers by using paddy in their granaries as a surety to secure loans from banks for farmers. Such a deal would take only 15 days.

The government, however, should draw up regulations on this matter as quickly as possible, said Prapit Manathanya, president of leading rice mill Chia Meng.

Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), yesterday said on the Silom stage he would support financial institutions, politically speaking, if they would lend the government finance for the rice-pledging scheme.

However, this could not be done legally at present given that the caretaker government has no legitimacy to create any loans that could burden the next government.

"I would like to announce that I'm asking all commercial banks to lend to the Yingluck government urgently, and let nobody thwart them. Let's see what further excuses it [the government] will make," said Suthep.

He added that the PDRC has Bt25 million donated by people that would be used to help fund the cases of farmers suing the government to claim back their delayed payments.

Suthep said the PDRC would hold another big protest rally between tomorrow and February 16, campaigning that Thailand belongs to all Thai people - and is not only the private property of the Shinawatra family.

Yesterday, the Commerce Ministry opened bidding for 467,623 tonnes of rice, part of a 1.2 million-tonne rice-selling plan, which has drawn many traders. This will ensure the government will receive an additional Bt10 billion from its rice sales to pay farmers within a month and a half.

About 18 bidders joined the auction. The result will be announced today (after the ministry bargains for the best price to potential bidders).

The 1.2 million tonnes would be sold through bidding and direct selling to exporters (about 840,000 tonnes) in late January. The ministry will also today open bidding for about 220,000 tonnes of rice to the Agriculture Futures Exchange of Thailand.

The ministry plans to open bidding for another 500,000 tonnes of rice in the stockpiles next week.

Since 2011, the Yingluck government has managed to sell a total of 2.2 million tonnes of rice via the bidding. The ministry reported that since early January to the first week of February, it should be able to return Bt15 billion to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) so that it could continuously pay overdue payments to farmers.

Surasak Riangkrul, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department said the ministry might need to accept a selling price slightly below the market price from the bidding as traders have included their operation and transportation costs. If the bidding was too low, the ministry would not accept the price offered by traders.

A source in the Pheu Thai Party said the government may use loans from commercial banks through |borrowing from the Government Savings Bank and BAAC to pay off the farmers.

Protesting farmers in Uttaradit |put pressure on the government to |pay them the rice pledge, threatening they would block the Asia Highway if they didn’t receive payment in seven days. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 growers from 15 provinces in the North and Central regions yesterday gathered in Nakhon Sawan's Muang district to protest against Suthep, accusing him of obstructing loans to fund the government's rice subsidy programme.


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