Chuan petitions PM on rubber

Chuan petitions PM on rubber

Prayut urged to address falling income in South

Former prime minister and ex-Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai has appealed to premier Prayut Chan-o-cha to address falling household income in the South.

The petition was lodged to Gen Prayut via his deputy Wissanu Krea-ngam on Saturday.

Based on Mr Chuan's petition, the government had announced a policy of boosting people's income in a bid to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap.

Citing the National Statistical Office (NSO), Mr Chuan said the country's average monthly household income rose from 25,194 baht in 2013 to 26,915 baht in 2015, but the average in the South and the North has dropped.

He gave examples of three southern provinces where average monthly household income has vastly dropped.

Between 2013 and 2015, average monthly household income fell by 10,258 baht to 22,035 baht in Ranong, dropped by 9,961 baht to 23,309 baht in Trang and declined by 6,999 baht to 15,584 baht in Yala.

Mr Chuan also called on Gen Prayut to come up with special policies which would address the matter in line with the conditions of each area.

Speaking after submitting the petition, Mr Chuan said part of the problem stems from tumbling rubber prices, which have pushed down people's income over the past four years.

He said he had petitioned the prime minister to come up with special policies to address the problem, such as a boost of tourism income and support for extra jobs.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach said yesterday that three measures aimed at shoring up rubber prices are being prepared by the Rubber Authority of Thailand (RAOT). The agency, the minister said, will be instructed to propose the measures to him within a few days so he would approve them immediately.

Based on the first measure, a joint venture between the RAOT and private companies would buy rubber at prices not lower than the production costs, which are between 50 and 60 baht per kilogramme. The purchase can be done under a 1.2-billion-baht budget. Industrial operators and exporters would also be asked to buy the commodity.

Regarding the second measure, efforts must be made to increase the domestic use of rubber from 33,000 tonnes to more than 50,000 tonnes. The RAOT, according to the final measure, would have to open rubber-purchasing depots so that the commodity would be used in the state agencies.

Mr Grisada said the first two measures will be undertaken first and if they fail to yield favourable results, the final one would be implemented.

He said Deputy Prime Minster Somkid Jatusripitak, in charge of economic affairs, has instructed his ministry to come up with urgent measures to help shore up rubber prices.

Mr Somkid said on Friday that a short-term measure would be an attempt to prevent the prices from falling under the production cost. In the long run, efforts must be made to add value to rubber, he said, asserting changes could be seen within three months.

According to the deputy premier, agencies under the interior and transport ministries would be asked to buy between 50,000 and 80,000 tonnes of rubber from the present 33,000 tonnes.

Other assistant measures include a productivity training course for rubber farmers out of the harvesting season, Mr Somkid said, adding the growers would also be paid as they attend training sessions.

Uthai Sonlaksap, chairman of the Rubber Network Council and Rubber Farmers Institute of Thailand, said it would be difficult to raise rubber prices beyond the costs if the government fails to heed concerns raised by farmers. Meanwhile, rubber production costs also vary according to each state agency's assessment, he said.

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