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Farmer aid scheme topped up with B5bn

The National Rice Policy Committee announced a new grant of 5 billion baht to help farmers. The fund now totals B61.47 billion. (Creative Commons)

Another 5 billion baht has been added to finance the rice harvest and quality improvement scheme for farmers in the 2018-19 season.

Boonyarit Kalayanamit, commerce permanent secretary, said the National Rice Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday approved an additional 5 billion baht for the rice aid scheme in the 2018-19 season that started in November last year, on top of 56.47 billion baht approved earlier.

The government expects more farmers to register for the scheme, especially those from southern areas that have yet to harvest.

Mr Boonyarit said of the initial 56.47 billion baht, the government allocated 56.20 billion to 4.08 million farmers on Jan 28.

Some 4.29 million farmers registered for the aid scheme for the period, outstripping the target of 4 million.

Many farmers from southern areas have yet to register.

He said the additional 5 billion baht will be earmarked largely for farmers in the South.

The rice measures, mostly identical to those offered for production in the 2017-18 crop year, cover four projects -- a loan scheme for farmers who agree to delay their paddy sales and a grant for harvesting and price-quality improvement costs; a loan scheme for agricultural cooperatives to gather rice and add value to the grain; soft loans for farmers, farm institutes, including agricultural cooperatives and community enterprises to build rice barns and delay paddy sales to stabilise rice prices, and the 3% interest rate subsidy programme for rice traders who agree to keep hold their stocks.

These programmes began in late October last year and will run to March this year, except in the southern provinces. The programmes for the South will run until June and July.

The loan scheme for farmers who agree to delay paddy sales and the grant for harvesting and price-quality improvement costs will cost an estimated 22 billion baht, and the loan scheme for farming institutes to gather rice and add value to rice will cost 12.5 billion.

Under the loan scheme for farmers who agree to delay their paddy sales and the grant for harvesting and price-quality improvement costs, the government will give grant 1,500 baht per rai for harvesting and price-quality improvement costs, capped at 18,000 per family and for up to 12 rai of farmland.

That is up from 1,200 baht per rai, capped at 15,000 baht per family on not more than 10 rai per family in the previous season. Small-scale farmers registered with the Agriculture Extension Department are eligible.

Farmers are also entitled to earn 11,800 baht per tonne for hom mali rice, 10,200 a tonne for glutinous rice, 7,500 a tonne of white rice and 8,900 per tonne for Pathum Thani fragrant rice, if they agree to hold their paddy under the barn-pledging scheme.

The committee earlier approved 250 million baht worth in loans for farmers from the state-owned Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to build their own barns, with 150,000 each for individuals and 3 million for each agricultural cooperative, with an annual interest rate of 1%.

The committee acknowledged the progress of the rice aid scheme in 2018-19 season. As of Feb 2, 136,344 farmers had joined the scheme, bringing in 768,325 tonnes of rice, totalling 8.54 billion baht spent by the BAAC.

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