Microchips planned for pledged rice sacks
New Commerce boss sets agenda
The government will implant microchips in sacks of rice under the rice pledging scheme and invest in information technology (IT) to enable real-time online monitoring of rice stocks and curb irregularities.
"The pledging programme is the first priority, the most urgently in need of addressing, as the scheme is allegedly plagued with irregularities and corruption," Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said yesterday.
He was outlining his policies for the first time since being appointed commerce minister late last month.
Formerly a PM's office minister and head of the now-defunct iTV channel owned by the Shinawatra family, Mr Niwatthamrong replaced Boonsong Teriyapirom.
Mr Boonsong left after coming under fire over the rice pledging scheme, which has incurred huge losses and caused the country to lose its ranking as the world's top rice exporter.
Mr Niwatthamrong also became a deputy prime minister at the same time.
He said the Commerce Ministry will accelerate an upgrade to its online system, making rice stock inspections and movements available in real time.
A radio frequency identification (RFID) system will be applied, with every rice sack participating in the pledging scheme implanted with a microchip.
The technology is similar to that used in Bangkok Expressway Plc's Easy Pass toll payment system.
RFID is based on digital tags affixed to containers to allow active or passive communication between moving goods and various fixed points through which they pass.
Cost of the proposal is not yet known, but the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) and the Marketing Organization for Farmers have been tasked with studying feasibility and a budget.
The study should be wrapped up next month.
But PWO president Chanudpakorn Vongseenin late last week said the government would have to spend at least 100 million baht to make the best use of technology in managing its rice stocks, processing, transport and delivery.
At the time the rice pledging scheme was initiated, the PWO was allocated 88 million baht from the government to install an IT system for monitoring the stocks.
Mr Niwatthamrong said other urgent issues the ministry is committed to addressing are the rising cost of living and export stimulus.
Relevant authorities will this month gather information and evaluate the condition of Thai exports and risk factors before making any revision to policy, he said.
The National Economic and Social Development Board in May lowered export growth for the year to 7.6% from 11%, based on an exchange rate of 28.80 to 29.80 baht to the US dollar.
The government's planning unit also cut its economic growth projection for the country to between 4.2% and 5.2% this year from 4.5% to 5.5% due to falling exports.