Senate panel: Ditch the rice scheme

The Senate committee on agriculture and cooperatives has advised the next government, after the Feb 2 election, to put an end to the Pheu Thai Party's rice pledging scheme as soon as possible.

Senator Vicharn Sirichai-ekawat, the committee chairman, announced the recommendation at a press conference in the presence of other panel members including senators Pol Lt Gen Yuthana Thaipakdi, Kobkul Pancharoenvorakul and Jitthana Yingthawilapa.

Mr Vicharn said although the rice pledging scheme had helped lift rice prices, and farmers' quality of life, the panel's study showed that over the past two years the scheme had been plagued by widespread corruption having a major impact on social, economic and political conditions.

The committee, therefore, recommended the next government  immediately shut down the scheme.

If it was deemed still necessary to help farmers, the government should opt for other measures such as promoting added value rice and production of good quality rice.

More importantly, the government should pay farmers money due them for the pledged harvests as soon as possible. Many had not received any of the money promised by the government for nearly six months, Mr Vicharn said. 

Mr Vicharn said the Senate committee on agriculture and cooperatives will hold a seminar on "ways out for farmers after the rice pledging scheme" by the end of this week.

The senator said the government had spent more than 800 billion baht on the rice pledging scheme during the past two years but only some groups of farmers had benefited from it.

The committee found there were many leaks in the scheme that had caused much damage to the country, Mr Vicharn said.

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