By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
WORRIED THAT declining prices of agricultural products worldwide will continue to affect Thai farmers' incomes, the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) has initiated a project to support the development of agricultural cooperatives nationwide.
The project aims to raise farmers’ incomes by 30 per cent in three years and increase the efficiency of the cooperative system.
TCC chairman Isara Vongkusolkit said yesterday that as part of the country’s economy relied on domestic growth, sustainable development of the farm sector and incomes of farmers was the heart of the economy. Thus the chamber will focus on helping increase the efficiency of agricultural cooperatives.
“Thailand has many agricultural cooperatives, but some have lacked efficiency, so farmers could not earn as much as they should. The project will help strengthen cooperatives’ power and increase the efficiency of their work to link to consumers and buyers domestically and abroad,” Isara said.
Under the project, the TCC will work with provincial chambers of commerce nationwide to support the strengthening of agricultural cooperatives, while the Internal Security Operations Command and TOT will help create software linkages between cooperatives and buyers.
Isara said the project would help educate farmers on how to manage their community cooperatives, increase crop quality to serve market demand, and help link cooperatives with traders and consumers directly so that crop prices will not be bargained down by middlemen.
The TCC will also help cooperatives reduce the costs of farm operations as well as strengthen cooperatives’ networks to foreign buyers via the cooperation of provincial chambers. So far, 29 agricultural cooperatives in 17 provinces have joined this project. They support the farming and production of rice, fruits, vegetables and sugar cane.
The TCC aims to have 100 cooperatives under its project before the end of next year.
According to the chamber, Thailand now has about 3,800 cooperatives with more than 6 million farmer memberships. Their total operating capital is about Bt230 billion a year. Meanwhile, Isara said that after the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking agreed to set up a working panel to study the impacts from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the JSCCIB lobby groups agreed that the country should join the pact in the near future. The JSCCIB comprises the Board of Trade of Thailand and the TCC, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Bankers Association.
Soon, although the TPP has not yet come into force, Thailand’s trade and investment could be hit as traders will focus on the 12 countries in the pact in order to ensure their long-term growth with this largest trading bloc, he said.