CHUMPHON : The National Oil Palm Policy Committee has insisted it is unable to guarantee a minimum palm nut price of 6 baht per kilogramme demanded by palm growers.
Apichart Jongsakul, the secretary-general of the Office of Agriculture Economy and a member of the committee, said the committee agreed to guarantee a minimum palm nut price of 4-4.35 baht/kg depending on the size and weight of the nut.
Mr Apichart said palm nuts which are roughly 17 % oil will be sold at 4 baht/kg, and nuts which are 18.5% oil will be sold at 4.35 baht/kg.
Mr Apichart said the committee expected the government would spend less than 1.9 billion baht on the project, which will be implemented today.
Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong, who chaired the committee's meeting yesterday, refused to comment on the decision.
A source, however, said Mr Kittiratt told the meeting he would take responsibility for the committee's decision if the palm growers became upset.
About 3,000 palm growers blocked Phetkasem Road in Tha Sae district after learning of the decision.
They pledged to continue to pressure the government to arrest the drop of palm-oil prices.
The farmers formed the roadblock near the 492-kilometre marker in tambon Tha Kham.
Led by Thirachart Pangwiroonrak, the farmers _ who were mostly from eight districts in Chumphon _ vowed to remain until the government dealt with their plight.
Opas Noochit, the president of palm oil cooperatives in Phatthalung, said palm growers in 13 southern provinces have agreed to ramp up their protest.
The protest would start in Chumphon and expand to Songkhla, he said.
The government lied when it promised earlier to support palm oil prices at 5 baht/kg, he said, adding that farmers would not negotiate with anyone again except for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or Mr Kittiratt.
"The government has done nothing but fed us a lie," he said.
"We will hold no more talks with any unauthorised government representatives. Send the prime minister or Mr Kittiratt."
The palm growers earlier protested on Dec 11-12, but dispersed after government representatives agreed to bring their demands to the attention of the committee tackling farmers' problems.
They had threatened to block roads and intensify their rally if the government failed to solve the problem.
The palm growers initially wanted the government to guarantee a minimum palm nut price of 5 baht/kg, up from 2.50-2.60 baht/kg, but yesterday increased their demand to 6 baht/kg.
The issue was originally set to be tabled to the committee on Monday but was postponed pending the National Oil Palm Policy Committee's consideration yesterday.
The palm growers yesterday also called on the government to reduce production costs such as fertiliser prices. They also demanded construction of storage facilities for crude palm oil in each palm-growing district, the setting up of a fund for palm growers, and the establishment of a palm farmers federation.
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Writer: Chatrudee Theparat & Amnart Thongdee