Government moving quickly on rubber crisis

Government moving quickly on rubber crisis

Purchase set for Monday in first step

Workers in the South are moving quickly to stack sheets in anticipation of government's decision to begin purchase at prices far above market prices. (Posts Today file photo)
Workers in the South are moving quickly to stack sheets in anticipation of government's decision to begin purchase at prices far above market prices. (Posts Today file photo)

The government will step up efforts to reduce rubber plantations, particularly on encroached lands as part of measures to tackle the low rubber price. 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said his administration will consider whether rubber plantations can be scaled down.

The government previously announced a plan to buy raw rubber sheets at 45 baht/kg directly from farmers.

It will buy 100,000 tonnes of rubber from growers with an approved budget of 4.5 billion baht. 

Gen Prayut said the purchase is only an initial step in solving the rubber price slump.

The premier also praised farmers for their patience and cooperation with the government. 

Referring to the government's efforts to ward off graft in the scheme, he said anti-graft measures were in place and efforts will be made to ensure transparency. 

"I am concerned about it [graft] and have issued an order in relation to the matter," said Gen Prayut, insisting the purchase must be carefully undertaken. 

He said he does not want to see the purchased rubber being taken and sold in the scheme again, insisting village headmen, kamnans and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must work together to ensure a clear process. 

The prime minister said it may not be necessary for the government to buy all 100,000 tonnes from farmers, adding the purchase could help spur the use of rubber in the private sector. 

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chatchai Sarikulya insisted Tuesday the purchase will start from Monday. 

He said the Council of State, the Bureau of the Budget, the Finance Ministry and the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry will meet today to make clear which financial resources will be used to finance the purchase.

The government earlier said rubber will be purchased with funds drawn from the Rubber Authority of Thailand (RAOT)'s rubber fund, including the levy on rubber exports, known as cess duty. 

Council of State secretary-general, Distat Hotrakitya, said his agency is interpreting the act governing the authority as to whether the cess duty can be used to fund the rubber purchase, adding that more time is needed for a decision.

Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the ministers took note of the rubber purchase scheme, which will buy up to 10kg of rubber per rai per household with a maximum of 15 rai. 

Apart from the 4.5-billion-baht budget for rubber purchases, 739 million baht will be set aside for hiring private parties to process rubber, 150 million baht for rubber stockpiling and 90 million baht for management, he said.

According to Maj Gen Sansern, Gen Prayut raised the issue in which politicians are claiming the government's rubber purchase is similar to ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra's rice-pledging scheme, which the regime opposes. 

Attempting to draw a contrast between the two schemes, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the rice-pledging scheme was mismanaged and corrupt.

Although Yingluck's administration learned of the problem, it did not try to solve it, he said. 

He noted the rubber purchase is being carried out as prices have declined and this is in line with remedies available under the RAOT. 

According to the deputy premier, the rice-pledging scheme was set to buy every grain, while the rubber measure taps 100,000 tonnes. 

The current government will buy rubber to be processed right away and not keep it in storage, he added. 

Maj Gen Sansern said Gen Prayut also ordered agencies to study the use of rubber in cycle track construction.

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