The government is set to scrap its subsidy for the low-cost Took Jai (favourite) shop project, leaving participating small shops to be managed by the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO).
The Took Jai shop in the Commerce Ministry compound in Bangkok. KITJA APICHONROJAREK
Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the department will this month end the 1.32 billion baht of support for the project, which pays shop owners to set up a corner for low-cost daily-life items.
However, it will allow the state-run PWO to manage the project instead, citing that the project has helped to strengthen traditional grocery stores.
The government introduced the scheme early last year to help ease the rising cost of living for low earners.
It includes more than 20 items such as milled rice, eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, fish sauce, canned fish, seasoning sauce, instant noodles, UHT milk, pork, chicken, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, detergent, talcum powder and sanitary towels at prices 20% below market rates.
The government offered a monthly subsidy of 9,000 baht for labour costs to participating shops while acting as a coordinator with suppliers over the cheap goods.
The scheme has 6,000 to 7,000 outlets, falling short of the 10,000 targeted by the government.
Ms Wiboonlasana said the PWO is now closely engaged in the scheme, as it has been appointed to manage purchase orders and payment services between outlets and suppliers. It also supplies packed rice to the shops.
"The participating outlets could further function as distribution outlets for the PWO, which will help to distribute cheap necessary products to consumers nationwide," she said.
"It will be designated as a channel to distribute low-cost products that help to ease the cost of living and curb profiteering by traders once the government sees it as an opportune time to intervene in the market."
However, the plan to transfer the project's administration to the PWO needs the approval next week of the panel chaired by Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom that supervises the Took Jai project.
Phatlada Phaladon, the owner of a Took Jai shop at Ngamsinsook Condominium in Bangkok's Klong Toey district, said the scheme has increased the shop's sales by about 3,000 baht a month, particularly for milled rice, cooking oil, canned fish and dishwashing liquid.
However, another shop owner in Ban Moh said his shop quit the project late last year after he lost the labour subsidy and due to delays to supplies.
Some 400,000 groceries across Thailand turn over 1.5 trillion baht a year.
The rapid expansion of hypermarkets and modern trade outlets has affected small retailers.
Deputy Commerce Minister Natthawut Saikua recently floated an idea to modernise traditional grocery stores by changing their Thai name.
Thai people call a grocery shop show-huay, which is a word borrowed from Chinese.
But huay in Thai means "bad", so the minister wants it changed to suay or "beautiful".
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter