Caretaker govt continues rice subsidy scheme

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BANGKOK, Dec 11 – The National Rice Policy Committee today approved the release of rice from the 2013/14 harvest into the market to avoid excessive stock.

Caretaker Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisarn admitted that Thailand has yet to finalise government-to-government rice sales to several countries while talks with Malaysia and Indonesia have been suspended.

He said rice from the new harvest has begun pouring into state stockpiles under the rice pledging scheme.

The caretaker government is allowed to sell rice through the Agricultural Futures Exchange of Thailand at an approved volume of 500,000-1,000,000 tonnes, he said.

He said he would consult the Council of State on whether a caretaker minister is empowered to approve rice sales and assured that delivery of rice in already-approved sales agreement will continue.

Mr Niwatthamrong said the Commerce Ministry has released three million tonnes of rice since he took office and Bt180 billion from rice sales should be returned to the Finance Ministry at the end of the year.

He gave assurances that every rice deal was made transparently and documents were available for review.

He admitted delays in payment to farmers who have sold rice under the subsidy programme but promised that all farmers will be paid since the government has allocated Bt270 billion for the scheme.