Ministries to discuss sugar cane farmers' debt payment
The Industry Ministry plans to talk with the Finance Ministry on Tuesday to extend the debt payment period for sugar cane farmers by another 4-5 years for debts coming due this year.
These debts have a remaining value of 2.09 billion baht and the loan process has been disbursed through the Cane and Sugar Fund, which has Krungthai Bank as the debt's creditor.
Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said he would talk to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana during the cabinet meeting.
"I expect the Finance Ministry will consider this matter and agree with our request, then the Industry Ministry will propose this topic to the next cabinet meeting for acknowledgement and approval," Mr Suriya said.
"The extension of debt payments is meant to help farmers with their financial burden."
He said farmers also want government support in creating a budget for harvesting technology and fertiliser.
In May 2016, the cabinet approved a loan measure worth 15.04 billion baht through the Cane and Sugar Fund for sugar cane farmers for plantation and cultivation in 2015-16, with a cane price of 160 baht per tonne.
Thailand has 384,708 sugar cane farmers and 11.5 million rai for plantation areas, while the Cane and Sugar Fund has paid debts to Krungthai Bank worth 12.2 billion baht.
Mr Suriya said the sugar cane sector is an important engine to mobilise GDP with a combined value of 250 billion baht annually, representing 1.53% of the country's GDP.
Sugar cane accounts for 21% of agriculture GDP and 48% of food GDP.
Warawan Chitaroon, secretary-general of the Office of Cane and Sugar Board, said the 2019-20 crop year should have sugar cane output of 120 million tonnes, down from 131 million the previous year, attributed to widespread drought and decline of plantation areas.
"The export volume of sugar will suffer from the declining output," said Ms Warawan.
In the previous crop year, Thailand's sugar mill production stood at 14.6 million tonnes. The country exported 12.0 million tonnes for the period, while sugar for the local market totalled 2.6 million tonnes, according to the office.
Thailand is the fourth largest sugar producer in the world and the second largest exporter.
She said the government has many measures to support the sector to increase the yield of sugar cane output up to 15% from 11% because Thailand is facing difficulties in expanding the plantation areas.
The government has also supported sugar cane farmers through the bioeconomy scheme to produce higher-value products that will help farmers to increase their household incomes.