Rice prices likely be set at B10,000 to B14,000

Rice prices likely be set at B10,000 to B14,000

Five types of paddy eligible under Democrats' price guarantee programme

(Bangkok Post file photo)
(Bangkok Post file photo)

Paddy prices may be guaranteed at 10,000 to 14,000 baht a tonne for rice farmers initially, according to the commerce minister.

Jurin Laksanawisit said on Saturday that a joint meeting of officials, operators and farmers had agreed to set the prices of five types of paddy.

The output for each farming household varies by paddy type but the acreage per household for all five categories must not exceed 40 rai.

Prices of paddy with 15% humidity will be guaranteed at not lower than 10,000 baht a tonne. Each household can get that price for up to 30 tonnes.

For sticky rice, the price is set at 12,000 baht but with a cap of 16 tonnes per household.

Hom mail paddy growers can expect at least 15,000 baht a tonne, capped at 14 tonnes per household.

Fragrant paddy will fetch 14,000 baht a tonne, limited to 16 tonnes, while Pathum Thani paddy will get 11,000 baht, capped at 25 tonnes.

The Democrat Party leader said the prices would be subject to approval at a Rice Policy Board meeting, which would also set the starting date of the programme.

"Farmers may have to register with the Agricultural Extension Department to join the programme. A panel will be set up to set the benchmark prices every 15 days," he said.

Farmers will be paid through their accounts with Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, he added.

At the same time, he said, authorities would take steps to reduce production costs such as those for fertilisers, insecticides and harvesting fees. Other measures include promoting large-scale farming and the use of high-quality seeds, as well as buying general insurance for crops.

"Market demand will dictate production. Organic or GAP [Good Agricultural Practice] rice farming and special breeds will be promoted. In the long term, growers will be trained to become smart farmers, with the help of research, development and innovation," said Mr Jurin.

In the short term, urgent measures will be aimed at balancing the market by delaying sales through loan extensions or interest subsidies for operators who agree to stockpile the grain, keeping existing export markets and expanding to new ones.

A price guarantee programme, first introduced during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government (2008-11), has long been championed by the Democrats. It was also believed to be one of the conditions the party set for joining the coalition government.

Under the programme, farmers will be paid only when market prices are lower than the benchmark prices.

Its strong points are that, unlike the rival Pheu Thai Party's rice-pledging programme, it does not distort market mechanisms and corruption is generally minimal because the money is deposited directly to farmers' bank accounts.

One of the disadvantages of the programme is the government gets nothing in return for using a large budget to cover price differences, compared to the pledging programme in which rice can be kept for sale at a later date.

Besides, officials have to deal with rampant false claims about the sizes of rice fields by farmers seeking to be paid more. It also puts pressure on prices to rise because millers and others who buy the grain know the government will pay the price differences.

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