The cabinet has decided to increase its latest rice subsidy to 13,000 baht per tonne for Hom Mali paddy in a bid to stem potential protests from rice farmers who were dissatisfied with a proposed subsidy of 11,525 baht earlier. Of the 13,000 baht, 9,500 baht will be paid to farmers to store their paddy in barns for a certain period of time, while the remainder of the subsidy covers other costs, including quality maintenance. This measure, which took effect on Tuesday and runs till Feb 28 next year, will cost about 20 billion baht, an increase of 8.6 billion baht from the previous subsidy. However, farmers who have no barns to store the paddy will not receive the 1,500-baht storage cost payment and participating farmers are expected to redeem their rice within five months.
The decision followed a special meeting by the National Rice Policy Committee which agreed to increase the subsidy a day after initially proposing it. Further the committee decided to revise the figure after officials concerned including those from the Interior Ministry gathered more information about paddy rice prices. The subsidy increase came after farmer groups disagreed with the original sum of 11,525 baht per tonne which wasn’t enough to meet their expanses. In addition to this, the army is considering buying rice from farmer cooperatives to help them with distribution, and is sending troops to help farmers with the harvest to save labour costs. About 90 percent of Hom Mali paddy is due to hit the market this month.
There are some concerns about the misconceptions being spread by the some agricultural cooperatives that are supporters of ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra and are manipulating rice prices. NCPO is investigating reports that politicians and rice millers are manipulating paddy rice prices in a bid to provoke rice farmers to protest against the government. Moreover provincial governors and police will monitor the situation for signs of defiance among farmers so that the rice situation is not politicized. Commerce Ministry and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is to the implement the measure and monitor warehouses for signs of irregularities This rice subsidy scheme is different from the earlier rice-pledging scheme which was deemed illegal. According to the present government, initial findings suggest there are irregular activities in Phichit, with attempts to discredit the government and convince farmers there that the government is mishandling the situation. It further stressed that subsidy programme is not a sustainable solution and that all stake holders in the rice production industry should make changes and adhere to the rules to help each other.