The newly appointed permanent secretary for commerce has insisted the government's rice pledging policy does not violate the Constitution but instead helps improve the living standards of poor farmers.
Vatchari: Scheme is not unconstitutional
The ministry is also committed to continuing the plan for the second year despite a simmering debate over the high costs of the scheme and the risk of breaching World Trade Organisation regulations.
Vatchari Vimooktayon said the ministry will propose to the cabinet today the pledging plan for the 2012-13 harvest.
But the amount of funding the ministry is going to ask for will be only for the main crop worth 240 billion baht for 15 million tonnes of paddy.
Earlier, the ministry planned to propose a new budget worth up to 405 billion baht both for the main and second crops to buy every grain of paddy estimated at 34 million tonnes this year.
The ministry is non-committal on the budget for the second crop.
Citing a Commerce Ministry study, she said farmers prefer the pledging plan and their high income will expand the economy by 0.2%.
According to the study, 140 billion baht has gone directly to farmers and another 57-60 billion baht indirectly to those who have not participated in the scheme but gained from selling the grains at relatively high prices.
She said the survey from a university also found 15 million farmers want the pledging scheme to continue for at least two years so they can earn enough money to pay off their debts.
Under the programme, farmers receive 15,000 baht a tonne for paddy and 20,000 baht per tonne for Hom Mali rice.
"The rice pledging policy does not run against Section 84 (1) of the Constitution as alleged by a group of university lecturers," said Ms Vatchari.
"The scheme is in fact in accordance with the law, which says the government must protect farmers to enable them to receive the most benefit. This month, about 50 billion baht will be repaid to the bank, and the figure will reach 85 billion baht by year-end.
She is confident Thailand will be the biggest rice exporter this year, saying the 45% contraction in volume so far is not due to the pledging plan but because India and Vietnam both dumped stock to capture Thai markets.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter