Moving more than 5 tonnes of unmilled rice banned in 24 border provinces

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BANGKOK, Sept 29 – Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce on Thursday announced a ban on transport of more than five tonnes of paddy in 24 border provinces without state permission to prevent fraud in the government’s rice mortgage scheme.

Permanent-Secretary for Commerce Yanyong Puangrach announced the policy after the government’s central committee on commodity and service prices met today, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister/Commerce Minister Kittirat Na Ranong.

Mr Yanyong said the panel resolved to restrict the movement of over five tonnes of paddy rice in 24 provinces bordering Thailand’s neighbour countries from Oct 1 with no set termination of the regulation.

The resolution bans transport of large amounts of unmilled rice without permission from the committee secretary-general or the director-general of the Department of Internal Trade or their authorised agents.

The move is aimed to prevent fraud in the rice mortgage scheme to avoid damage which may cost to the state and impair the internal rice trade system, Mr Yanyong said.

The newly-launched measure is not meant as a protectionist policy, Mr Yanyong said, defending the decision.

Those found guilty of any unauthorised transport of rice can face an up to five-year jail term and be fined Bt100,000, Mr Yanyong said, while false statement of amount of transported rice can lead to three years in prison and a Bt6,000 fine.

Moreover, Mr Yanyong stated, rice traders and rice mills nationwide must report monthly with the commerce ministry if they hold over 15 tonnes of unmilled rice. Those violating the ban can face up to one year in jail and a Bt20,000 fine.

The commerce minister is scheduled to call a meeting with the Thai Rice Mills Association who joined with the government’s mortgage scheme to prepare and understand the policy implementation early next month.

The National Rice Policy Committee earlier approved the Pheu Thai-initiated rice mortgage scheme’s startup on Oct 7 for in-season unmilled rice. So far, some 2-4 million rice farmers, or over 50 per cent of Thailand’s rice growers, have registered to join the scheme.