The period for the new round of pledging runs from Oct 1, 2012 to Sept 15, 2013. Mortgaged rice prices were set at 15,000 baht a tonne for unmilled white rice paddy and 20,000 baht per tonne for Hom Mali (Jasmine) paddy, she said.
Mrs Watcharee said the cabinet had not discussed the pledging scheme for the second crop, which would be harvested in March next year. The government had a six-month window to reconsider the scheme.
She said the allocation of the 240 billion baht budget was based on the premise the government would receive about 40 billion baht from its current rice release.
It was expected that by the end of this year cash returns would be about 100 billion baht and, therefore, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives would not have to raise loans to cover the entire 240 billion baht, she added.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democrat Party said it does not believe there is only four million tonnes of rice remaining in the government stockpile.
Democrat MP for Phitsanulok Warong Dejkitwikrom said on Tuesday that Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom had not made public the true facts on the state of the rice stockpile.
There should be about 14 million tonnes of milled rice remaining in the stockpile, not four million tonnes as the minister had claimed, he said.
Mr Warong called on Mr Boonsong to clarify exactly where the rice went, and at what prices.
The opposition MP said he believed the stocked rice was secretly sold to close aides of politicians and that the rice would be mortgaged to the government’s pledging scheme again, to reap a second payment.
Mr Warong said the permanent secretary for commerce’s remark that the rice price pledging scheme was constitutional and that it was a just and fair scheme to help poor rice farmers was just not true.
Only large farmers would benefit from this scheme, not the small ones. He had visited farmers in Sukhothai and they complained bitterly that they were not paid the declared mortgage prices. Many of them had still not received the money, he said.
He defended the right of academics at the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) to petition the Constitution Court to issue an injunction halting the scheme. The Democrat MP said these academics were directly affected by the government’s budget spending on this programme. Therefore, they had the constitutional right to take action.
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Members of the Farmers Network and the June 24 for Democracy group on Tuesday rallied in front of the Nida building compound in opposition to the 146 academics, led by Adis Israngkul na Ayutthaya, who petitioned the Constitution Court seeking a ruling on the constitutionality of the pledging scheme.
They issued a statement saying that they opposed the move, that they are poor farmers who have no money to hire academics to help protect their interests. They were not like the members of the Rice Traders Association, who were among the country’s richest people.
The statement said the academics admitted that they had never asked poor farmers for opinions about the scheme. This was an admission that they listened only to the other side and that the academics moved to protect only the rice traders.
It stated that the academics had no legitimacy to petition the court because they had failed to make any wide study of the impacts and benefits of the pledging scheme, particularly on farmers, who were the poorest group of people in the country.
The benefits of farmers in developed nations were well protected and they had high incomes, but some Thai academics had failed to stand side by side with Thai farmers, who were the underdogs, the statement said.
Many reporters had interviewed farmers and reported that the farmers confirmed that they benefitted from the rice scheme, the statement said. Rice traders and rice milers stood to lose from this policy. It questioned whether the academics had taken this into account.
The statement asked the academics whether they saw themselves as opponents of the government, which gained a landslide victory in the general election. The academics had never moved against any government formed by the military camp.
The farmers' statement asked whether the movement by the academics was aimed at giving the justice system more power over the government elected by the majority of the people.
Songchai Wimolphattranont, a representative of the June 24 for Democracy group, said the academics were attempting to use the charter to minimise the authority of the government.
“If there is any problem with the government’s policy, the parliamentary system should be used to address and settle it,” he said.