ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Rice hoarding starts in Thailand
Many shoppers yesterday sought to stock up even though the Commerce Ministry has confirmed no shortages or hoarding have been detected so far.
Consumers are worried that millers will start hoarding rice in anticipation of much higher prices promised by the Pheu Thai government. The party campaigned on a promise to revive the rice mortgage programme which pays farmers 15,000 baht a tonne for white rice paddy and 20,000 baht for Hom Mali paddy.
Rice packers said they could not buy rice from millers who are already demanding higher prices. Dao, 48, said she had already bought 10 five-kilogramme packs of rice and would buy more today. "I decided to stock rice at home because I'm worried that there will be a similar problem like the palm oil shortage a few months ago. Rice prices are still the same and I saw a number of people buying many packs like me as well," she said.
Big C Supercenter said it set a limit of six packs per family for some brands but that was only part of a specific promotional campaign already planned. There is no limit for other rice brands and their prices are unchanged.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged the concerns and urged Pheu Thai to clarify its policy to curb price speculation. He added if actual hoarding was occurring, the government needed to take action.
Acting Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai insisted there should be no price increases or shortages over the next few months when the new harvest enters the market. In any case, the ministry will send inspectors to examine stocks of millers to ensure no hoarding. The Public Warehouse Organisation is ready to pack rice in its stocks at cost to be distributed as needed, she added.
Prices of packed rice are not controlled by the government due to heavy competition but rice packers are asked to cooperate to maintain the wholesale prices and inform the Internal Trade Department about any increases in their prices.Somkiat Makcayathorn, president of the Thai Rice Packers Association, said the government should allow prices of Hom Mali rice to move in line with the market, while packers would help absorb the cost of packed white rice which generally is consumed by lower-income earners.
"Rice packers haven't increased prices of packed rice but millers have raised their prices, citing market mechanisms. The packers are now shouldering the burden for other people in society," he said.
He added that white rice prices may rise by eight baht a kilogramme if Pheu Thai goes ahead with its mortgage policy.
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