BAAC reschedules farmers' debts

The state farm bank has rescheduled the debts of 460,000 farmers and allocated 12 billion baht in new loans to help with their liquidity while they wait for payments for their pledged paddy.

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The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives has extended by six months the repayment period of farmers' debts due on March 31, president Luck Wajananawat said in a statement released on Thursday.

Some 469,000 farmers benefit from the debt rescheduling.

As executor of the rice pledging scheme, the bank also set aside 12 billion baht in new loans for their household needs or for investment in a new crop. The objective is to discourage them from turning to loan sharks.

As of Wednesday, 90,000 farmers borrowed 5.93 billion of the new loans. Some 432,000 farmers also have tapped their farmer cards' credit lines for a total outstanding amount of 6.74 billion baht.

As for the 2013/14 rice pledging scheme which ended Feb 28, 2014, 1.53 million farmers pledged 11.62 million tonnes of paddy for a total amount of 190.81 billion baht, the bank said.

To date, the programme has been allocated 93 billion baht from the government.

Of the allocated funds, 73 billion baht came from the budget and rice sales by the Commerce Ministry and 20 billion was from the emergency budget allocated to help the farmers who had pledged paddy before the House dissolution on Dec 9, 2013.

As of Wednesday, the bank paid 73.31 billion to 600,000 farmers and targets to repay all the available amount by March 31.

The bank also launched a farmers' fund on March 5, targeting to mobilise 2 billion baht by June 30, 2014 from people who wish to directly help farmers during the difficult time.

People can help farmers by making deposits to the bank's designated accounts and receive 0.63% interest a year or no interest but they may not withdraw the money before Dec 31, 2014. Another account was also set up to accept direct donations.

As of March 24, the accounts stood at 1.18 billion baht including direct donations. Of the total, 55% was deposits made to the no-interest account.

Farmers have been held hostage by the ongoing political struggle. After the House dissolution, the caretaker government by law lacks the mandate to borrow funds to repay farmers who have pledged their paddy. As the prospect of a new government drags on, they will continue to suffer from the payment delays.

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