Farms to get B12bn for upgrade

Farms to get B12bn for upgrade

The megafarm project encourages farmers to pool rice land into one large plot and use modern equipment to plough or harvest grains. SUNTHORN PONGPAO
The megafarm project encourages farmers to pool rice land into one large plot and use modern equipment to plough or harvest grains. SUNTHORN PONGPAO

The government pledges to splurge a combined 12 billion baht to finance farm sector reform in fiscal 2020, focusing largely on the megafarm scheme in which the government procures machinery and agricultural equipment for farmers who group together to cut production costs and raise productivity.

The fiscal 2020 budget is the first year in which state agencies are required to conduct a budgeting plan on an agenda basis jointly operated by seven ministries comprising agriculture and agricultural cooperatives, commerce, industry, science and technology, public health, interior, and finance.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who yesterday chaired a joint meeting with the seven ministries to carry out the farm sector reform in the fiscal 2020 budget, said the government is committed to reforming the farm sector, with the Agriculture Ministry functioning as a core agency while the other six ministries provide support.

The government also aims to strengthen the role of agricultural cooperatives and upgrade them to community businesses or private companies based on the model of Japan's Sowa Kajuen Co based in Wakayama prefecture.

Founded by a group of farming families in Arida, the firm uses artificial intelligence and drones to manage its mandarin orange and tangerine farming, and for farm product processing.

Mr Somkid said the government has enacted farm reform the last three years, but obstacles remain such as farmers' habit of conventional farming methods and growing only one crop such as rice, oil palm, coconut or rubber. They face relatively low income when prices fall because of oversupply or lower demand in the world market.

"As many as 40% of farmers in Prachuap Khiri Khan, for instance, solely grow coconuts," Mr Somkid said. "They face a drastic impact when the coconut price drops. They should switch to growing various crops instead."

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach said 6.8 billion baht will be allocated in fiscal 2020 to finance projects that help raise the income of low-income earners, facilitate access to loans and develop smart farming.

The megafarm project entails farmers pooling their rice land into one large plot, after which modern equipment is deployed.

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