Controversial Bt15,000/tonne rice subsidy continues


BANGKOK, March 12 – The Yingluck government’s much-criticised rice pledging scheme which subsidises rice purchases from farmers at Bt15,000 per tonne will remain unchanged for the next crop, according to the Thai commerce minister.

Boonsong Teriyapirom said the National Rice Policy Committee (NRPC) decided to maintain the pledging price for the 2012/2013 crop, which will cost the government about Bt105 billion (US$3.5 billion).

It is estimated that seven million tonnes of paddy will be sold under the rice pledging scheme – the total volume less than last year due to drought, he said.

The NRPC has set a new rule which allows subsidies only for rice harvested at more than 100 days while more stringent purchasing measures will be imposed to prevent malfeasance, he said.

Mr Boonsong said the interior, defence and finance ministries will participate in inspecting the quality of rice to prevent the smuggling of grains from neighbouring countries to be sold under the scheme.

The Agriculture Ministry assured that the new round of pledging could start immediately while certified documents will be issued to farmers by Thursday, he added.

The commerce minister said the pledging price will not be adjusted unless an agricultural zoning system is imposed.

Critics in several quarters in society, particularly academics, earlier called on the government to cut the rice subsidy to Bt12,000-13,000 per tonne.