State vows demand-driven approach to rice handling

State vows demand-driven approach to rice handling

The government says it will strike a better balance between rice supply and demand during the 2017-18 season in an effort to stabilise prices.

According to Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, permanent secretary for commerce, the state's rice management plan this year will be demand-driven, taking into account expected demand from key buyers in Asia, the Middle East and Africa for white rice and in Hong Kong, China and Singapore for hom mali fragrant rice.

"Responsible officials will later call for talks with all stakeholders, including farmers, millers and exporters, to evaluate proper demand, be it domestic and overseas demand or existing global stocks, before coming up with a production plan for the 2016-17 season," Ms Wiboonlasana said. "We roughly expect Thailand's rice production for this year to stay at 27.4 million tonnes of paddy, on par with the previous season."

She said the government is also committed to optimising the megafarm scheme, under which the government procures machinery and agricultural equipment for farmers who cut production costs and raise productivity.

The Commerce Ministry last September signed a memorandum of understanding with the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and the Interior Ministry to proceed with the megafarm development plan, aiming to develop 426 rice megafarms spanning 800,000 rai in 2016.

A list of participating farmers will be compiled, with modern equipment deployed during the farming season, including harvesting machinery.

Participating farmers can borrow up to 5 million baht at 0.01% interest from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), while the Commerce Ministry is responsible for marketing and sales of the rice and finding buyers.

Last August, the cabinet approved 3.25 billion baht worth of lending packages via the BAAC for megafarm projects during 2017-19.

As of Sept 7, there were 386 rice megafarms spanning 500,000 rai. A total of 57,775 farmers from 66 provinces were participating.

The government aims to expand the scheme to 1,000 rice megafarms this year. Officials are reviewing incentives to lure more farmers to take part.

According to Ms Wiboonlasana, the government will also move ahead with plans to set up a central market for milled rice as another distribution channel.

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