Kittiratt signs off B20bn rice payments

A 20-billion-baht budget to pay rice farmers money owed to them under the rice-pledging scheme has been transferred to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC), and growers could start to get their cash as soon as Wednesday.

Before attending a cabinet meeting at the Police Academy in Nakhon Pathom on Tuesday, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong told reporters that he had signed off the use of the 20-billion-baht from the Central Budget, as approved by the Election Commission (EC).

The money would be paid to farmers with vouchers for pledged rice, known as bai pratuan, in the 2013/2014 harvest season, he said, without giving exact dates for payments.

However, a source at the BACC said the bank could begin to transfer the money to the bank accounts of farmers as soon as Wednesday.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisarn meanwhile made reassurances that the government would be able to repay the 20-billion-baht loan from the Central Budget by the end of May, as promised to the EC. 

The money to repay the sum will be generated by selling one million tonnes of rice stocks through auctions, raising around 12-15 billion baht; and from the Commerce Ministry’s wider cash flow, he said.

The 20-billion-baht loan represents one-sixth of the total amount of overdue rice-pledging payments owed to farmers.

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