Officials have outlined 16 measures to help rubber farmers facing hardship, including plans to cooperate with rubber-producing countries in the region to boost global market prices.
Amnuay Patise, the newly appointed deputy minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, said four of the proposals have been devised by the government and 12 by the National Council for Peace and Order.
He said the measures will include efforts to increase rubber prices and help farmers earn more cash. The state will also subsidise crops at 1,000 baht per rai, with a maximum of 15,000 baht per farming household, and improve access to loans from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, so growers can start a second career.
Mr Amnuay said that Agriculture Minister Pitipong Phuengboon Na Ayudhaya visited Malaysia last week to attend a ministerial committee meeting of the International Tripartite Rubber Council and discussed issues facing farmers.
The council comprises Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, but representatives from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar also participated in the meeting.
Under efforts to stimulate domestic rubber sales, he said cooperatives will be empowered to buy rubber and process it themselves, rather than have to rely on individual buyers who now lack purchasing power.
The government is also implementing a buffer stock scheme to help stabilise the market price of rubber.
The deputy minister said growers have some reason to be hopeful, since rubber purchases by China are on the rise. He also said global rubber stocks are not as high as expected, since continuous rains in the South of Thailand have caused a dip in production.
There is an ongoing campaign to scale back annual rubber plantation production from 400,000 rai to 200,000 rai, which should reduce rubber supply on the market, he added.
The government is meanwhile calling on all sectors to use domestic rubber, in the construction of sports tracks, for example.
Citing analysts and people in the agricultural and industrial sectors, Mr Amnuay said rubber prices have already reached rock bottom. The government must reform the whole rubber system, he said.
Rubber farming representatives yesterday went to Government House to call for the withdrawal of a rubber bill due to be deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly tomorrow.
Sunthorn Rakrong, coordinator of the alliance for the revival of rubber farmers, said the bill was drafted by academics, civil servants and politicians without the participation of those who work in the industry.
If the "harmful" bill is not withdrawn, the alliance will take further action against it, he said.