Somkid: bank must help farmers
The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) should continue with agricultural reforms to help raise farmers' income and reduce production costs, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
"The BAAC has an important mission to transform Thailand's agricultural sector so that the majority of farmers have sustainable incomes," said Mr Somkid.
"The BAAC should be above politics in every way."
Although Thailand's agricultural industry is vast, Thai farmers are riddled with poverty because of high production costs and low adoption levels of technology. Most farmers do not own farmlands and grow single crops, said Mr Somkid.
Farmers have been victim to political machinations as they still rely on the government for farm subsidies, he said.
In addition to helping relieve farmers' debt, the BAAC has a duty to change their behaviour by developing strong agricultural cooperatives, making farmers understand appropriate production levels, lowering the cost of production and adopting polyculture methods, said Mr Somkid.
The Commerce Ministry should also help with e-commerce and accelerate the Pracha Rat market scheme to build up income and competitiveness, he said.
Mr Somkid said agricultural cooperatives are at the heart of developing tourist destinations and the Pracha Rat market scheme can provide networks for Thai agricultural products to be sold in neighbouring countries as well as further global markets.
"The GDP contribution from the agricultural sector is only at 8% because of low value, monoculture and a lack of reform, marketing and information," he said.
Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the agricultural sector is a strength for Thailand, but GDP contribution remains minuscule.
Farmers need to reconsider their approach to farming and become smart farmers in order to reduce production costs, enhance production volume and increase sales prices, said Mr Sontirat.
Enhancing Thai farmers' livelihood has to be done through integrated production planning and sales strategies, regardless of whether produce is sold for consumption, manufacturing or part of energy production, he said.
Farmers should also look to sell produce in neighbouring countries or regional countries, said Mr Sontirat.
E-commerce is another channel to increase sales volume and is a direct route to consumer purchases, but the quality of produce on this platform needs to be good, he said.