One of the main post-coup justifications for the junta seizing political power has been the Yingluck Shinawatra “rice pledging” scheme.
Guaranteed prices for rice farmers has been said to have been unsustainable as well as “riddled with corruption.” Before the coup, Bangkok’s anti-democrats were enraged that farmers were being supported by the state.
Since the coup, not only have farmers in Thailand’s rice heartland been flooded to protect those anti-democrats, but the price of rice has gone through the floor.
In amongst the reporting of mourning, a monochrome Thai PBS has been showing Central region farmers complaining and meeting with officials. They say they are receiving just 5,000-6,000 baht a ton. The same television station has been talking with rice farmers in the Northeast who also face a grim future.
A story at the Bangkok Post confirms this. It begins: “Kneeling and sobbing before a top commerce ministry official, a Phichit farmer appealed to the government Sunday to help growers suffering from the fall in rice prices to 5,000 baht a tonne, the lowest level in decades.”
The farmer grabbed “the legs of permanent secretary for commerce Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, who visited Wangkrod Tai Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) in Muang district to meet local authorities, farmers and rice millers to discuss ways to deal with the tumbling price of paddy.” She appealed for the “prime minister [The Dictator] to help.”
Others say they are selling their land.
Officials blamed the falling global price for the problems faced by farmers. Indeed, the price is in decline, suggesting that rice traders sense a coming glut. The price of rice in global markets has been in decline since 2008.
The junta has responded with a “a pledging price.” Declaring the market price around 9,000 baht, the junta has decided it “will pay farmers under its barn programme at 11,525 baht a tonne for hom mali paddy…”.
Within hours, the junta had upped this subsidy to up to 13,000 baht.
The Yingluck government paid roughly 15,000 baht a ton, and this has resulted in the demand that she repay something above $1 billion from her personal assets.
Double standards? You bet.
The junta is offering just 2,000 baht a ton less than the Yingluck government but world prices are now lower than during that government’s time. In effect, the junta is probably outlaying more than the amounts they screamed about just a few years ago. They are hoping that production will be less than 2011-14.
The Dictator seems to have realized the political risk and decided on attack. The low prices, he says, are because farmers haven’t changed and because of nasty politicians. You know them as the “bad people.” General Prayuth Chan-ocha was quoted:
… Gen Prayut said the falling rice prices, especially for Hom Mali rice, can be attributed to two factors: incomplete restructuring of the agriculture sector and political activities.
He said the restructuring of the agriculture sector is still ongoing and will take time. The problem is complicated by collusion between politicians and rice millers in driving the rice prices down to create pressure against the government.
We bet Prayuth is not thinking that he’ll ever get a huge bill. He’s one of the “good people” so that just can’t happen. Double standards? You bet.