Somkid asks Jetro to back smart farming initiative

Somkid asks Jetro to back smart farming initiative

TOKYO: The Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro) is being asked to help support Thailand's agricultural restructuring, as the government through the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) is offering as much as 20 billion baht in loans to support smart farming.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak met Jetro chairman Sasaki Nobuhiko in Tokyo on Monday. Mr Somkid asked Jetro to offer technical support and coordinate with large Japanese firms to provide farm-related technology and machinery to the Thai farm sector.

He said technology and machines such as drones, harvesters and smart tractors could help the agriculture sector cut costs and increase productivity.

Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said the BAAC is extending 20 billion baht in loans with a low interest rate this year to support smart farmers, community businesses and agricultural cooperatives in developing their businesses and upgrading production.

The loans are also for farmers to buy machinery to replace human labour.

BAAC president Apirom Sukprasert said the bank will cooperate with large companies, the Board of Investment and the National Village and Urban Community Fund to develop smart farmers, community businesses and agriculture cooperatives.

Community development is expected to drive the local economy this year to offset the global economic slowdown and the impact of the coronavirus on tourism.

Mr Apirom said farmers under the lending scheme can receive an interest rate of the minimum retail rate (MRR) minus one percentage point. The loans are for buying machinery and accessories and to pay for maintenance.

The bank's MRR stands at 6.875%.

If farmers are already making instalment payments on machinery from either company, they can participate through refinancing.

Applications for the loan scheme will be taken until March 31, 2023. The entire loan amount should be doled out within two years, Mr Apirom said.

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