Urgent measures needed to clear B338bn farm debts

Urgent measures needed to clear B338bn farm debts

Farm tools are put on sale in Phitsanulok in April 2015 as farmers need money to repay their debts. (Post Today file photo)
Farm tools are put on sale in Phitsanulok in April 2015 as farmers need money to repay their debts. (Post Today file photo)

Farmers' debts have soared to almost 340 billion baht and the prime minister has ordered all related agencies to speed up efforts to help them.

The latest Industry Ministry data show 1.64 million farmers are saddled with debts totalling 338.36 billion baht, or 237,158 baht each on average, said Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a deputy government spokesman, on Saturday.

"Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is concerned about the trend and decided we needed more measures or some farmers might lose their land," he said.

Gen Prayut told all related agencies to coordinate to help them by comprehensively categorising the debt status and evaluating the farmers' needs so effectively measures can be designed, he said.

"In addition, the farmers should get some financial management education so the problem can be solved permanently."

A breakdown of the figures show some 150,000 farmers owed 21.59 billion baht to loan sharks. Some 62% of the debts in this group are in the execution process and need urgent help.

For this group, Maj Gen Sansern said the Justice Ministry will provide them with legal counsel and their cases will be sent to the Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives Ministry for measures to clear the debts.

The remaining farmers in this group who are not at immediate risk of losing land will likely get help from the revolving fund for farmers of the agriculture ministry.

In the other group, 1.49 million farmers owe to financial institutions, with outstanding debts of 367 billion baht.

For this group, the data will be sent to the Finance Ministry so suitable packages can be designed to help them through specialised financial institutions.

Other agencies will come up with additional measures to promote and develop new professions, build business networks and create prototype communities in which residents manage their own production.

Farmers are also encouraged to register with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and the Government Savings Bank to seek help in clearing their loan-shark debts.

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