Free rubber stock, growers urge
Invoke Section 44 to build roads, PM told
Rubber growers are calling on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to invoke Section 44 of the interim charter to speed up the release of 300,000 tonnes of stockpiled state rubber to build roads.
The move, one of six measures being urged by the Rubber Growers Federation of Thailand, is also hoped to help ward off pressure on rubber prices ahead of the next rubber-tapping season which is set to begin in April-May.
The federation says 300,000 tonnes of rubber sheet in the government stockpile should be released to provincial administration organisations or local organisations for use in road construction projects.
The Department of Highways has been slow to adopt a proposal that latex-mixed asphalt be used to build roads, the federation said.
The other five measures include speeding up the disbursement of a 12-billion-baht assistance fund to support rubber farmers suffering from tumbling prices and helping promote rubber processing.
Last November, the government approved spending of 12 billion baht, or 1,500 baht per rai for a maximum of 15 rai per farmer, to help them with production costs. Plantation owners will receive 900 baht per rai for up to 15 rai and tappers will get 600 baht per rai for a maximum of 15 rai.
Boonsong Nabthong, chairman of the federation, said rubber prices are falling sharply. Latex prices are currently between 22-25 baht/kg while rubber sheet prices are moving between 33-35 baht/kg.
Around the same time last year, rubber latex was sold at 43 baht/kg while rubber sheet was sold at around 57 baht/kg.
He said rubber farmers' earnings are below the minimum wage of 300 baht a day and the disbursement of state subsidies is slow.
Many growers are in the red and some have been forced to cut down rubber trees and sell them to raise money to pay off their debts, he said.
Mr Boonsong said rubber growers want the government to intervene and maintain rubber prices in addition to the financial subsidy programme.
Uthai Sonlaksap, chairman of the Rubber Council of Thailand, said growers in 17 southern provinces are considering their next move to pressure the government to intervene.
He said rubber prices could slide further when the harvest season starts in April-May as state stockpiles remain high.
The rubber associations in the South are expected to meet in Trang on Jan 12 to discuss urgent measures to reverse the price slide, he said.
So far they have agreed the government should step in and maintain the rubber price at 50-60 baht/kg.
They also want the prime minister to use his special powers under Section 44 to support prices.
Gen Prayut, meanwhile, has shrugged off calls to shore up prices, saying the government does not have enough money.
He said it would be more useful to restructure and better manage the rubber planting sector instead of throwing cash at it.
Boonmak Boontem, manager of a rubber cooperative in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Lan Saka district, said his cooperative is suffering accumulated losses due to sliding rubber prices. He called on authorities to urgently stabilise prices to help growers.