The mobile cabinet on Monday greenlighted incentives worth 8 billion baht for sugarcane farmers who agree to cut fresh sugarcane without burning the residue, a move aimed at helping reduce the amount of PM2.5 dust in the 2022/23 harvest year.
According to Rudklao Suwankiri, the government's deputy spokesperson, funding to support the scheme will be sourced from the state-owned Bank for Agricultural and Agricultural Cooperatives.
Under the scheme, which is aimed at addressing the burning of the residue of their crop by sugarcane farmers, the government would offer farmers who agree to cut fresh sugarcane without burning the residue 120 baht per tonne.
The cabinet's approval aligns with a resolution by the Cane and Sugar Board's meeting headed by the permanent secretary of the Industry Ministry held on Sept 28 to support sugarcane farmers with a budget not exceeding 8 billion baht.
According to Mrs Rudklao, the government has identified the need to urgently address the issue of PM2.5 pollution which has worsened every year and affects the health of millions of people.
The government then came up with incentives for the agriculture sector and sought closer cooperation with neighbouring countries to help tackle these issues.
She also insisted the incentives offered for this project do not violate the agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as they are designed to assist sugarcane farmers in promoting the cutting of fresh sugarcane, reducing air pollution and PM2.5 dust.
This aligns with WTO provisions under the Green Box category for environmental protection in agriculture without negatively impacting production and commodity prices.
Thailand's sugar cane output is estimated at 82.4 million tonnes in the 2023-24 crop year, with domestic sugar consumption projected at 25.7 million sacks, which represents 2.57 million tonnes.
In a move to help the sugar industry, the cabinet on Nov 14 endorsed raising the domestic sugar price by two baht to better align with higher production costs.
However, the panel blocked another two-baht increase for the Cane and Sugar Fund, targeted for environmental purposes, as it said consumers should not bear the burden of this cost.