BAAC, agencies partner to upgrade smart farms
The government is eager to create 100,000 tech-savvy farmers next year
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has ordered the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to team up with the Industrial Promotion Department and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to develop and upgrade smart farmers and community tourism, part of ongoing efforts to address poverty in the rural sector, covering as many as 30 million people.
The government is eager to create 100,000 smart farmers in 2020, and an additional 200,000 during 2021 and 2022.
The smart farmer initiative aims to maximise farmer capability by adopting technology to improve production capacity, management and marketing, upgrading them to become leaders in their hometowns.
The scheme is under the umbrella of the government's Pracha Rat public-private collaborative policy.
The Bangkok Post sat down for an interview with BAAC president Apirom Sukprasert, who has been tasked with a leading role in tackling poverty in the farm sector.
What is the priority task for the BAAC to solve poverty in the farm sector?
The bank has already implemented the first mission to address existing debts and loan sharks in the farm sector, offering 5 billion baht in loans to 2.9 million farmers. The bank will later offer more loans and programmes to support them to earn extra income.
The bank will also improve the way farmers are assisted, using methods from the Chinese government that are tailor-made for each farmer. The Chinese government supports farmers with processing their goods and provides them with market access.
The bank together with the State Enterprise Policy Office, Fiscal Policy Office and Industrial Promotion Department have learned the Chinese methods in tackling poverty.
Senior officials from the four state agencies paid a visit in early November to the Agricultural Development Bank of China (ADBC) to learn about solutions curated to help Chinese farmers in remote areas.
The ADBC has been facilitating farmers to gain easier access to the fund and directly address the farmers' problems on an individual basis. The Chinese government also gives full support to farmers to run their own community businesses and sell their products via e-commerce.
In 2015, China had 70 million people below the poverty line. After the government started implementing the individual aid measures that year, the figure dropped to 19 million this year. The government aims to raise all 19 million people above the poverty line in 2020.
The aid measures vary for each farmer.
The Chinese government has sent three officials to stay in the targeted community, one of whom is from the ADBC. Those officials focus not only on how to create greater access to capital, but also how to take care of their health, apply technology and support marketing.
BAAC officials also learned how to apply technology to upgrade farm productivity and create a network among the farm sector and tourism management in Hokkaido on a Nov 7-10 visit.
The bank is also scheduled to lead potential agricultural cooperatives and officials of the bank who take responsibility for the mission to build smart farmers to visit Hokkaido again next April. The Japan External Trade Organisation will help the bank organise the trip.
How will the bank incubate smart farmers and develop community tourism?
Smart farmers will be offered assistance to upgrade productivity and process their products. The BAAC is scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding with the TAT and Industrial Promotion Department soon to develop this project.
The government is building an ecosystem to strengthen smart farmers, community enterprises and agricultural cooperatives.
The bank is also creating a networking system among smart farmers and tourism routes, with 77 smart farmers who are customers of the BAAC and 215 community businesses under the supervision of the Industrial Promotion Department as the first target, while the TAT will conduct tourism routes in 55 second-tier provinces.
The bank also plans to organise meetings among directors of the BAAC nationwide this month to inform them of the collaborative efforts which are scheduled to be implemented in March.
The bank has also authorised two officials from each branch out of the 3,000 branches nationwide to focus on reducing farmers' production costs and increase productivity.
The BAAC is also cooperating with provincial administrations to implement aid and development programmes that are suitable for each community.
Under the latest stimulus measure worth 144 billion baht, the BAAC is extending a 50-billion-baht loan with an annual interest rate of 0.01% for three years to members of the national village and community fund, community entrepreneurs, agricultural cooperatives and farmers.
The BAAC is also in talks with the Board of Investment to offer privileges to private companies that support investment, technology and machinery for smart farmers and community entrepreneurs. Companies will be allowed to claim up to 120% of expenses as a deduction from taxable income.
The bank is also restructuring its organisation on a requirement of Mr Somkid, who has ordered the bank to focus on sustainable development for the farm sector, not on profit-making.