Public still kept in the dark about rice deals
- Published: 27/11/2012 at 01:07 PM
- Online news:
Despite the admission by Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong that the rice pledging scheme is problematic and will incur losses which are yet to be assessed, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom remain adamant that the scheme is fine and benefits the farmers.
That said, I am not sure whether Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong was just joking or being serious when he told the reporters at the parliament on Monday that he would encourage rice farmers to turn to growing cassava and sugarcane if Thai rice could not be sold on the world market at a price which would enable them to live a better life.
Has anybody ever seen cassava or sugarcane being grown in a flooded, low-lying rice field? The two crops do not need that much water, let alone a flooded paddy field. Sugarcane needs a lot of water, but it must be on well-drained soil. The two crops can be grown pretty well on dry land unsuitable for many other crops.
As for cassava, Thailand is already the world’s number one exporter of tapioca flour, the main product of cassava. Why the need to increase output, which will only tend to bring down the price?
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt na Ranong (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Mr Kittiratt said that it was not necessary that Thai farmers to stick to rice cultivation. Nor is it necessary that Thailand must be the world’s number one rice exporter, he said, adding that what is important is to improve the quality of life of Thai farmers.
I couldn’t agree more with Mr Kittiratt that the ultimate objective of the government’s rice policy should be to improve the livelihood of farmers by ensuring that they get better prices for their rice harvests, which is far more important than retaining Thailand’s ranking as the world’s biggest rice exporter.
But dear Mr Kittiratt, have you already realised that the government’s rice pledging scheme -- a policy you have been wholeheartedly supporting -- has already unseated Thailand from the place of the world’s top ranking of rice exporter, because the scheme has made the Thai grain too expensive. At around 40% above the global market price is not attractive to buyers and therefore unsellable, leaving behind a huge stockpile in warehouses throughout the country.
Although a majority of farmers may have benefited from the scheme as you claim, with better prices for their crops, a substantial portion of the benefits supposedly for the poor farmers have been siphoned off by unscrupulous millers and other vultures.
Worse yet, the entire government, from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra down to the officials at the Commerce Ministry, have persistently insisted that farmers have benefitted 100% from the populist scheme and that the scheme is good for the farmers and corruption. All the allegations of corruption and suspicious rice deals related to the rice pledging scheme that were hurled against the prime minister and the government by the opposition Democrats during the censure debate were simply shrugged off and swept aside, with terse and incomprehensible explanations from the prime minister and Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, to the tune that there was no massive corruption as alleged.
I admire Mr Kittiratt for having the courage to admit that the rice pledging scheme will incur losses for the government, which are yet to be assessed. He also conceded that he was concerned that Thai rice might not find buyers and that even if there are buyers the prices would be much lower than the pledging prices – 15,000 baht a tonne for ordinary paddy and 20,000 baht a tonne for Hom Mali jasmine paddy.
So when will the prime minister or Commerce Minister Boonsong have the grace to come out and admit that the rice pledging scheme is badly flawed and in need of a major overhaul, or will be scrapped, because it will place a huge debt burden on the country and hurt the farmers in the long run?
Or when will Mr Boonsong stop beating about the bush and start telling the truth about all the rice deals and their details, the amount of rice in the stockpile and so on? All the claims that the information is classified is nonsensical and indicative that something fishy is going on they do not want disclosed to the public.
Sooner or later, the truth will out. Why not tell the truth now? And no more white lies!
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor