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Premier defends price supports for rice farmers


June 8, 2008

Premier defends price supports for rice farmers

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Sunday defended his government's move to offer price supports to rice farmers, who had threatened street protests in a bid to get state assistance, reported AFP.

Farmers have accused millers of pushing down paddy prices by wrongly claiming their crops exceed moisture limits.

The commerce ministry has listed rice prices at around 13,000 baht ($390) per tonne, but farmers say they are receiving as little as 9,000 baht.

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"The government must take care of this matter," Samak said on his weekly television programme.

He said the government did not want to meddle with Thailand's rice purchasing mechanism, but also wanted to ensure farmers receive a fair price.

"We don't want to touch the system, but if the mechanism isn't working, we have to see what can we do," Samak said.

Samak proposed last week that a government bank would buy rice from farmers at 14,000 baht ($428) per tonne -- a 40 percent premium over the rate farmers say they are receiving.

The rice bought by the government's Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) would then be resold to millers and exporters.

The cabinet was to consider the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday.

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