Government’s Explanation of Its Rice-pledging Scheme
The explanation came after strong criticism by the Opposition and some academics, who called for the scrapping of the scheme.
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom cited the scheme as a policy in the Pheu Thai Party’s election campaign in 2011. He said that, as the ruling party, Pheu Thai intended to help all groups of people and that farmers, being the majority of the Thai population, should receive greater attention.
The project is part of the Government’s urgent policies to be implemented in its first year in office in order to provide income security for farmers and improve their quality of life.
Mr. Boonsong said that, in fact, the policy aims to boost the prices of all agricultural products, including tapioca and natural rubber. The ultimate goal is that the Government wants to see farmers live in dignity and earn a fair and sufficient income.
The Government in October 2011 launched the rice-pledging scheme for the 2011-2012 production year. The Cabinet, during its meeting on 2 October 2012, decided to proceed with the scheme for the 2012-2013 crop season, which began in October this year.
Mr. Boonsong pointed out that the rice-pledging scheme had evidently led to higher agricultural prices and farmers would fully benefit from increased prices for their farm produce. He said that the Ministry of Commerce had so far spent about 300 billion baht on the scheme. With the fund, it received 21 million tons of paddy, equivalent to 11 million tons of rice.
When the total volume of rice is released, it will be able to remit 85 billion baht to the Ministry of Finance in 2012, and by the end of 2013, the Ministry of Commerce will remit another 100 billion baht to the Ministry of Finance.
He explained that although the Government had spent 300 billion baht on the scheme, farmers would earn almost 200 billion baht in profit. This fund would help strengthen the Thai economy, and finally the Government would also earn more from tax collection.
Mr. Boonsong was confident that, by the end of 2013, the Government would be able to remit 240-250 billion baht to the Ministry of Finance. He said that all relevant agencies had been instructed to carry out the project with transparency and to prevent corruption by strictly complying with the criteria of the scheme.
At each point where rice is pledged, officials from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and the Public Warehouse Organization are posted to ensure that the scheme will be carried out properly.
Mr. Boonsong revealed that, in order to provide additional assistance to farmers, the Government is starting to hold talks with Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar on the establishment of a federation of rice-producing countries for the benefit of farmers in this region.