By The Nation
Burning of dry leaves of sugar cane before they are cut and harvested manually has led to environmental issues and complaints from people living near the plantations.
Sarayut Yimyuan, deputy BAAC manager, said the bank recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB) and 57 sugar milling factories across the country for the implementation of the three-year soft loan project approved by the Cabinet.
He said the Cabinet has given the green light to the BAAC to provide Bt2 billion worth of soft loans a year to sugar cane farmers for tractors or other machinery that would assist in the harvesting and do away with the need to resort to the environment-unfriendly practice of pre-harvest fire clearing.
Sarayut said the loans would be granted at the interest rate of 5 per cent per annum but farmers would have to shoulder the interest at a two-per cent rate while the rest would come from the government’s subsidy. He added that the sugar factories would act as loan guarantors for the farmers who sell their sugar cane to the guaranteeing plants.
Worawan Chid-aroon, secretary general of the OCSB, said the soft loan project is part of the government’s measures to have all sugar cane planters stop burning their crops by 2022 to lessen air pollution.
She said the loans were aimed mainly at allowing farmers to buy small harvesting tractors that can be made in the country at a cost of Bt300,000 per vehicle. The loans can also be used to buy imported harvesting tractors but these tractors must be imported within two years.
Worawan added that farmers can also seek loans to buy non-harvesting tractors and trucks or to develop their plantations or dig reservoirs but they will be charged annual interest of four per cent.
The ceiling of loans for each farmer will be limited at Bt29 million, she added.