Prayut assures farmers' income will increase over next 5 years
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday pledged to improve the livelihoods of farmers over the next five years.
Gen Prayut said improvements would come through the government's "smart farmer projects" which aim to support farmers developing their own agricultural businesses.
He said the projects were part of his 20-year national strategy.
Gen Prayut was speaking during a visit to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry yesterday to monitor work amid falling rice prices.
"I'm certain farmers' income will increase in the next five years. The ministry has implemented a plan to increase production by supplying farmers with sufficient water and farming management technology," he said.
The ministry also has been implementing a farming assistance scheme to cut production costs.
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chatchai Sarikulya said the government's long-term farming strategy will help improve the livelihood of farmers by increasing income to 390,000 baht per person per year within 20 years.
Gen Chatchai said the ministry will work to increase the number of large-scale plantations to 5,000 nationwide and expand efforts to switch from rice to other crops by at least 500,000 rai.
However, in Chai Nat, the government's move to encourage farmers in 35 central provinces to grow maize instead of rice by giving them an interest rate subsidy is impracticable, according to a leading member of the provincial farmers assembly.
Chaliew Noisaeng said he has grown rice all his life and saw the government's latest measure as unreasonable.
Proposed substitute crops would not provide good yields and soil conditions in paddy fields are not suitable for maize or other crops recommended by the government, he said.
On Tuesday, the cabinet approved allocation of 8 billion baht in subsidies for soft loans to encourage farmers in 35 provinces in the Central Plains to grow maize instead of rice during the off season.
The scheme aims to prod farmers in those provinces to grow maize on 2 million rai.
According to Nathaporn Chatusripitak, an adviser to Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, farmers will be offered loans via the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives at an interest rate of 4%. The government will subsidise the loan with an additional 3% interest to the bank.
Mr Chaliew said the government should have provided grants to farmers at a rate of 3,000 baht per rai if it really wanted them to stop planting rice as encouraging farmers to grow alternative crops would put them at risk of incurring losses.