Rice industry to fire up 'mega farm project'

Rice industry to fire up 'mega farm project'

Farmers, rice mills and exporters are formulating a production plan — known as the "mega farm project" — to boost work practices and improve quality of life.

Suthep Kongmark, president of the Thai Agriculturist Association, said all rice farmer groups have supported the idea of the scheme which would be piloted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

He said the grouping would help reduce production costs and significantly boost productivity.

Mr Suthep was speaking after the 4th meeting of a working panel to formulate a rice production plan yesterday.

Representatives from many rice-handling organisations took part in the meeting, including the Thai Agriculturist Association, the Thai Rice Mills Association, the Thai Rice Exporters Association, the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), the Department of Foreign Trade and the Public Warehouse Organisation.

Mr Suthep said his association had asked the government to provide zero-interest loans for farmers who take part in the mega farm project.

The loan scheme would start from March to February next year, he said, adding it is expected to cost 40 billion baht.

The scheme is expected to help 570,000 households who take part in the project.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has carried out a pilot mega farm project covering 18,000 rai of paddy field in Uttaradit province and it yielded good results because production costs declined, Mr Suthep said. Another project has been carried out in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Under the project, a list of participatory farmers was compiled and modern equipment deployed during the farming, including harvesting machinery.

Farmers, rice mill operators and exporters were matched to produce rice to meet market demand, he said.

Chutima Bunyapraphasara, permanent secretary for commerce, said the ministry will take up the loan proposal to be discussed with the BAAC before forwarding it to the Rice Policy and Management Committee (RPMC) and the cabinet by March.

As part of the efforts to reduce farm costs, the Commerce Ministry will consider the prices of fertiliser and pesticide.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives was assigned to conclude assistance measures for farmers. The measures will be proposed to the RPMC on Feb 24.

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