By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Stockpile sales from pledging continue via private, govt deals
Thailand will try to export about 8 million to 10 million tonnes of rice a year to continue releasing its inventory from the pledging scheme.
“Normally, Thailand will have buffer stocks of at least 10 million tonnes,” Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan said yesterday. “The government will continue to sell rice from stockpiles through many methods. The country should export about 8 million to 10 million tonnes of rice a year. That includes exports by the government and by private exporters.”
The National Rice Policy Committee meets today to discuss rice policy and the pledging project.
Niwatthumrong, who is also a deputy prime minister, said that by boosting overseas sales, Thailand should earn more income to run the pledging project.
Thailand has about 15 million tonnes of stored rice, of which 5 million tonnes already have contracts and are waiting for shipment, he said.
Statistics show that Thailand sent abroad 4.92 million tonnes of rice worth US$3.33 billion (Bt100 billion) in the first nine months of the year. The major foreign markets are Iraq, Benin, South Africa, the United States and Japan.
The government’s budget should be adequate to pay farmers this year, he said. Spending of Bt270 billion is estimated for the rice-pledging project this year.
The Finance Ministry should provide a clear explanation of the delay in payments to farmers, Niwatthum-rong said. The Commerce Ministry has already returned Bt160 billion to the Finance Ministry during the past two years from the proceeds of rice sales. The government should have no problem paying farmers, he stressed.
According to Commerce Ministry, the government has already spent Bt600 billion for the first two years of the pledging scheme.
The loss for the first year was Bt136 billion. The government has not yet finalised the losses for the past two years, saying it needs to unload pledged rice so that it can calculate an exact figure.
The World Bank recently warned that Thailand faced huge losses of up to Bt400 billion from its pledging scheme.
Niwatthumrong immediately dismissed the World Bank’s loss estimate, saying that last year, the government spent Bt330 billion. He called on the World Bank to explain how it came up with that figure.
The Public Warehouse Orga-nisation said it would sell about 200,000 tonnes of cheap rice this month under the government’s policy to ease the cost of living for consumers.
PWO president Chanudpakorn Vongseenin said the rice would be distributed in 40 million 5-kilogram packs. The rice will be sold for one year at Bt85 per pack.
The government will continue to release rice to the market soon.