Three-month coconut import ban proposed

Three-month coconut import ban proposed

Thailand is considering a three-month import ban on coconuts to shore up local prices.

The oil crop and vegetable oil board under the Commerce Ministry on Tuesday approved the measure, to come into effect between August and October, said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who chaired the meeting.

It will be tabled for cabinet approval soon.

Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong added the measure came from discussions with all parties.

“The price slump this year is the result of increased imports over the past 2-3 years following a plague. Now that the problem was addressed, the measure is necessary to keep a market balance,” Mr Sontirat said.

Coconut farmers do not agree, thinking the measure will do little to help them now because it was long overdue.  

Amnat Meedang, the representative of coconut farmers on the board, said he was preparing to take legal action against Mr Sontirat for negligence when he failed to take care of the farmers.

Mr Amnat claimed his group had sent a letter to the board, informing it there was no local shortage, at its September 2017 meeting.

But Mr Sontirat had since approved imports of another 500 million fruit, all of which have been delivered. In addition, the minister approved imports of another 50,000 tonnes or 50 million litres of fresh coconut milk.

“We’d like to point out the approvals are illegitimate. We have submitted the letter informing the board there was no shortage locally. We explained the 1-million-rai plantations yielded 800 million fruit a year,” Mr Amnat said.

Despite the updates, he claimed the ministry allowed companies to import them. “Their stocks are believed to be around 300-400 million fruit now. They need not buy any until next year.”

“An import ban now is therefore useless because companies have already filled their import quotas,” Mr Amnat said.

Coconuts are now sold at 5-6 baht a fruit. When taking into account harvest and delivery fees of 2.5 baht apiece, farmers make a profit of around one baht apiece or 5,000 baht per rai per year, lower than the minimum wage, he said.

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