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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        12  March 2011

Thai rice farmers want guarantees

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Thai rice farmers in the world's largest rice exporting country want price guarantees. In the central and northeastern provinces they want the government to improve the crop insurance program for paddy to allow for higher moisture content in order to make pricing fairer.

They say while they believe the insurance program benefits farmers, authorities should base prices on paddy with moisture content of 20-30 percent instead of the standard 15 percent and help them cut costs.

Farmers from Phitsanulok, Lop Buri, Roi Et and Yasothon outlined their views to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a videoconference held yesterday.

The current benchmark paddy prices under the insurance programme are based on 15 percent moisture content. They are 11,500 baht per tonne for Pathum Thani I, 11,000 baht for regular paddy, and 10,000 baht for glutinous paddy.

Normally, farmers sell their paddy to rice millers immediately after the harvest. Selling prices range from 6,500 to 7,300 baht per tonne while costs are around 6,000 baht.

Under the price insurance scheme, payments are based on the difference between insured prices and benchmark prices, regardless of market prices when farmers sell their crop.

The insured prices are based on average costs and a 30-40 percent profit margin. The benchmarks are based on the weighted average wholesale prices of rice in Bangkok equivalent to paddy with less than 15 percent moisture content.

Yanyong Phuangrach, the permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry said 15% moisture content was the standard for setting benchmark prices. Each increase of 1 percent in moisture adds 15 kilogrammes to the weight of a tonne of paddy.

He said ministry officials would visit rice mills to ensure measurements were being made accurately.

Narongrit Thongdee, a farmer from Lop Buri, said he supported the proposal and noted that in his province, officials from public agencies were present when farmers sold their paddy. Farmers from Roi Et and Yasothon asked the government to continue the insurance scheme, as it allowed them to earn better incomes than the decades-old pledging schemes phased out two years ago.

They also asked the government for support to improve water supplies.

Mr. Abhisit said it was not practical for the government to announce reference prices for each province. He also asked for cooperation from farmers nationwide to check the process in order to increase the effectiveness of the insurance program.

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