Losses from the rice-pledging scheme for the previous four crops totalled 390 billion baht, says a Finance Ministry source, referencing data compiled by a subcommittee tasked with accounting for the programme.
The subcommittee's data at the end of September showed losses of 390 billion baht or 58% of the spending amount from the past two harvest years, up from 330 billion baht estimated by the subcommittee at the end of May.
The latest loss figure is closer to former deputy prime minister and finance minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula's recent estimate of 425 billion baht in losses for the two harvests.
But MR Pridiyathorn later told the Bangkok Post that the losses could reach 466 billion baht, based on Commerce Ministry data.
Nipon Poapongsakorn, a distinguished fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, has estimated that losses could be 280 billion baht for the previous three crops if the state can sell its rice stockpile in five years, rising to 530 billion baht if the rice is sold in 10 years.
He said the government spent 678 billion baht to buy 43.4 million tonnes of paddy during the past two harvests.
In related news, the cabinet yesterday acknowledged a draft agreement to sell 1 million tonnes of rice a year to China.
It also approved a joint statement of cooperation between Thailand and China in which China will help to develop the high-speed train route from Bangkok-Nong Khai in exchange for the purchase of Thai farm products.
The rice contract says China will buy 500,000 tonnes from the Thai government from this December to next April.
An additional 300,000 tonnes is set for May-October delivery, then 200,000 tonnes in the last two months of 2014.
The government will sell the produce at market prices, said Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan, who yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission. The sales deal was conceived at the October meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
The Thai government said China agreed to buy 1 million tonnes of rice a year for five years. The sales will cover all types except 5% white rice in the first year.
Beijing prefers the Bangkok-Nong Khai rail route because it would link eastern China to Bangkok via Laos and Nong Khai. The statement said the Thai side will pay 50% of any investment in the form of farm produce and the rest by cash.