By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Commerce Ministry and relevant state agencies, as well as stakeholders in the rice industry, yesterday finished chalking out five development strategies, and six marketing strategies for implementation from 2015-2020.
The strategies will be finalised again next week and proposed to the National Council for Peace and Order by the end of this month.
The proposals call for the setting up of a “rice board” to pursue strategies in the long run without any political involvement.
The five development strategies are:
l Develop rice farmers and rice production and the value chain.
Farmers will be educated on cost reduction and encouraged to become “smart farmers” so that they no longer need to rely on government subsidies. The government will cooperate with private enterprises to establish a community knowledge centre to encourage farmers to grow quality rice, serve the demands of niche markets, increase value-addition, and create a fair trading system.
l Involved agencies such as the Agriculture Ministry, farmers, local millers, and cooperatives will join forces to develop the rice-trading system as “modern trading” so that farmers can lower their costs. The farmers will be encouraged to adapt more mechanisation for cultivation and harvesting.
l Zoning for alternative crops will be promoted in some areas, as some land is not suitable for growing rice. The government will also develop plantation areas and improve irrigation systems, logistics, transport, and soil quality in areas that are suited to growing rice.
l Support research and development of rice seeds and growing methods. The government will cooperate with private enterprises to launch insurance for rice production in case of natural disasters, while a rice fund will be established to support research and development in the rice industry. Under this step, the Finance Ministry will collect a 1-per-cent fee from the rice traders’ revenues and incomes of exporters. The fund will have a Bt2-billion annual budget.
Charoen Laothamatus, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said a “rice board” comprising all stakeholders – government agencies, farmers, millers, exporters and academics – should be set up. The board should have independent authority, and draw up a national road map for development of the rice industry.
l Develop a rice-trading system and support the market mechanism.
The Agriculture Futures Exchange of Thailand will be modernised and put under the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
In addition, the six marketing strategies include the creation of a fair trading system. More rice-polishing plants will be promoted in the next five years, to cover at least 80 per cent of the country’s rice-plantation areas. Thailand will be promoted as a global centre for rice polishing.
The standard of Thai rice grains will be improved to international standards and in addition, domestic consumption of Thai rice will be increased by 5 per cent within five years.
Thailand will be promoted as a rice-trading centre. Rice-export volume and value are targeted to increase by 10 per cent in five years, while at least five new export markets will be penetrated.
Thailand will also adopt international standards of rice production and trading, such as carbon credits and waste management. The logistics system in the rice supply chain will be developed under the ministry’s strategy.
To ensure farmers’ incomes, Thai Rice Growers Association president Vichian Phuang-lumjiek has called for the government to set up a middle price for paddy rice in the market at Bt10,000-Bt12,000 a tonne so that farmers will be able to earn some profit.
He pointed out that production costs had climbed in the past few years to more than Bt6,000 a tonne. Rice farmers do not seek high subsidies or any pledging, but they at least need to make some profit.