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SATURDAY, December 03, 2022
Govt hits back over slump in agricultural prices

Govt hits back over slump in agricultural prices

TUESDAY, December 05, 2017

GOVERNMENT Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd has rebuked political critics who have said the junta has failed to address falling agricultural prices, saying they wanted to give people a false impression that the government was doing nothing to support farmers.

“Politicians just want to create news in the media and sway public opinion that the government does nothing, while Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered government spokespeople to inform people about assistance measures,” Sansern said yesterday.
His comments came after politicians proposed that the government support rice farmers, because prices for their crops had fallen during the harvest season. They suggested the introduction of a minimum income guarantee scheme that would compensate farmers for the difference between market and reference prices.
They also called on the government to provide financial support for farmers who delay selling their rice during the harvest season, when prices are often lower.
Sansern said the Cabinet in September had put in place measures to support rice farmers for the 2017-18 harvest season. The government also assigned the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives to provide soft loans to farmers who wanted to delay selling their rice, he added. Farmers are eligible for loans of up to 90 per cent of their crops’ value.
The project, which began on November 1 this year, will run until December 30, 2018.
The government had also given out handouts of Bt1,200 per rai, with a limit of 10 rai per rice field, to help farmers improve rice quality, and Bt1,500 per tonne for rice kept in stockpiles, Sansern said.
He added that the government had assigned state-owned banks to provide soft loans to cooperatives or community enterprises that processed rice into food products. It also provided a 3-per-cent interest rate subsidy for rice mills that bought paddy from farmers and stockpiled it for two to six months.
The cost of the rice assistance package was about Bt87.2 billion and the government aimed to take 12.5 million tonnes of white rice from the market, out of total white rice production of 26-27 million tonnes.
To shore up rice and rubber prices, the government had also looked at long-term measures, including information technology assistance to support the farm sector, promoting processing goods, supporting mechanical farming, marketing farm products, promoting financial access and improving farmer welfare, he added.
Meanwhile, Luck Wajananawat, the newly appointed deputy minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, told The Nation that the government’s policy was to let market mechanisms determine the price of farm products, as previous minimum-income guarantees and rice-pledging schemes had cost too much and resulted in wasted tax money.
Poor farmers would be supported by the welfare card project implemented by Finance Ministry, Luck said. Currently, 3.96 million farmers whose annual incomes are no more than Bt100,000 get support from the project.
“Long-term projects, such as encouraging farmers to form cooperatives and community enterprises, may take time before they can deliver desirable outcomes, but these will be sustainable and beneficial to farmers,” Luck added.