Government defends rice pledging scheme

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BANGKOK, Oct 10 – Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom led a press tour to Ratchburi province today to observe the government’s rice pledging procedures in an attempt to dissolve and disperse criticism of the government’s failure to reach the targetted export levels of rice from the scheme.

He said the government has as yet sold only four million tonnes of rice from the rice pledging scheme while purchase orders have been made for 7.3 million tonnes from four countries: China, Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh, under government-to-government (G-to-G) agreements.

Brushing aside accusations and allegations of excessive stocks of rice from the scheme, Mr Boonsong said the government has so far released more than eight million tonnes of rice through auctions to the private sector and state agencies.

Thailand’s total export of rice should reach 8.5 million tonnes this year, he said.

He gave assurances that sales volume reported from government agreements are genuine, and do not only represent intended purchases under memorandums of understanding.

The commerce ministry will deliver Bt85 billion from the sales of rice to the finance ministry by yearend with another Bt40 billion in the first quarter of next year, he said.

He admitted that the government is short of warehouses to stock rice in some areas and temporary warehouses, such as in unused aircraft hangars, may help relieve the problem.

Puti Srisamutnark, president of the Thai Farmers Promotion Association, called on the government to proceed with the scheme which has contributed to farmers’ higher income.

He said the pledging price of Bt15,000 per tonne should remain the same.

Opposition Democrat MP Ong-art Klampaiboon said the government must disclose details of the government’s agreements involving sales of 7.33 million tonnes of rice.

This is not confidential information as claimed by the government, he said, adding that it has been a practice that transactions between the government and other governments must be revealed to the public.