Cabinet allocates Bt20 billion for rice payments to farmers

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BANGKOK, Feb 25 – The caretaker Cabinet today approved Bt20 billion from the central fund for overdue payments to farmers from the rice pledging scheme.

The National Rice Policy Committee (NRPC) reportedly informed the Cabinet that Bt20 billion would be borrowed from the central fund pending Finance Ministry bond sales which would take at least two months to complete and Commerce Ministry revenue from rice sales.

The Bt20 billion budget will be a revolving fund to pay farmers while waiting for payments from the Finance and Commerce ministries, government spokesman Pakdiharn Himathongkam said.

Farmers have delivered 10.97 million tonnes of rice at a total of Bt181 billion while the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) has paid Bt65.4 billion to 517 farmers at a total of 4.05 tonnes of rice.

Overdue payments for farmers are Bt115 billion. The Commerce Ministry has targetted earnings of Bt8 billion a month from rice sales.

The Commerce Ministry will make Bt16 billion in two months, to add to the Finance Ministry’s Bt100 billion from bond sales – a total amount sufficient to pay farmers, according to the NRPC.

Caretaker Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan said the Cabinet’s decision would be submitted to the Election Commission (EC) for approval, after which the budget would be transferred to the BAAC.

After the borrowing to pay farmers, the Bt60-billion central fund will be reduced to nearly Bt50 billion – sufficient for spending during the dry season and emergency cases, he said.

It was reported that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held talks with the Chinese ambassador to Thailand, who said China was keen on buying rice from the kingdom on a government-to-government basis.

A Chinese state enterprise will negotiate rice purchase at 1 million tonnes a year from Thailand and details will be discussed in the next few weeks, said an informed source.