Thai government to pledge rice from second crop

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BANGKOK, Oct 16 – The Thai cabinet approved an additional Bt20.85 billion budget to pledge more rice from this year’s second crop, compelling the rice pledging scheme to totally incorporate 14.7 million tonnes of rice in the 2012/2013 harvest, according to government spokeswoman Sansaee Nakpong.

She said the government originally agreed to take 13.31 million tonnes of rice into the scheme, but has added 1.39 million tonnes. Budget for the purpose will be from the Bt90 billion investment fund of the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

The commerce ministry was instructed to speed up selling rice in its stocks so as to urgently pay back to the BAAC as the bank will need funds for the new round of rice pledging.

The cabinet was also informed that 652 rice mills had served as rice pledging locations for a total of 14.526 million tonnes of rice from March 1 to Oct 3 this year.

Deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubumrung said he had ordered the Marketing Organisation for Farmers and Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) to allow police and the media to check warehouses for transparency in the rice pledging scheme.  He is chairman of the commission on corruption prevention in the rice pledging scheme.

Commerce permanent secretary Vatcharee Vimuktayon said corruption was not that easy given the stringent inspection measures, starting from pre-farming which must be inspected and certified by representatives from farmers, local cooperatives, BAAC, tambon and village chiefs, and PWO.

The certified information must be submitted to the commerce ministry’s data centre which compiles the rice pledging volumes on a daily basis, she explained.

Referring to alleged smuggling of paddy from neighbouring countries to be sold under the pledging scheme, police commanders in border districts such as Amnart Charoen in Sa Kaeo province totally ruled out such action, insisting that border checkpoints have been strictly monitored.

However, border patrol police commander Pol Lt Gen Surapong Kemasingki said police had seized 55 tonnes of rice and 90 tonnes of paddy smuggled into Thailand so far this year.

The largest seizure was in Sa Kaeo province, followed by Mukdaharn and Ubon Ratchathani provinces, he said.