Minister shocked by massive storeof rotting rubber

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Yuthapong Charassat said he was startled to find 10,000 tonnes of rubber left to rot in warehouses in three northeastern provinces under the government's pledging scheme.

The abandoned raw rubber was found during Mr Yuthapong's recent inspections of storage facilities in Bung Kan, Udon Thani and Si Sa Ket provinces.

The rubber stored in the warehouses was pledged under the government's scheme to stabilise rubber prices in over 56 provinces nationwide.

Over 10,000 tonnes of rubber in these three provinces was left to decay, causing about one billion baht in damage, Mr Yuthapong said.

The biggest loss was in Si Sa Ket, where up to five million kilogrammes of rubber was left to rot, resulting in an estimated loss of 530 million baht, he said.

Mr Yuthapong said he was startled by the amount of rotten rubber found in the state-run rubber block manufacturing factory in Si Sa Ket's Khun Han district. The rubber had been left in the facility for about eight months, Mr Yuthapong said. He added that the executive administrators of the scheme had not been aware of this. Similar cases may be found in several other provinces, he said.

The deputy minister said the rotten rubber would be shifted to private factories to be processed into rubber blocks before being stored in warehouses.

A fact-finding panel will be set up to look into why such a large amount of rubber was not properly cared for, he said. The case will be forwarded to the Department of Special Investigation for legal action against anyone found guilty of malfeasance, he said.

The deputy minister earlier said the pledging scheme would not be extended once it expires in March as rubber prices had rebounded sufficiently.

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Writer: Surachai Piragsa & Sermpong Thongsamrit