THAILAND: Farmers sign on for subsidies

Songkhla's Hat Yai district agricultural officials were sent to make the list of rubber farmers in 12 subdistricts, a procedure that will continue until September 30.

Though many farmers, especially those who grew rubber trees and tapped the latex themselves, were happy with the subsidy, some tappers-for-hire said it would only benefit plantation owners, hence the government should maintain rubber price at Bt90 per kilogram.

In the Northeast province of Chaiyaphum, more than half of the rubber farmers who have registered for the subsidy in 16 districts were found to have no land-title deeds.

Only landowners will benefit

Provincial agriculture officer Udomdech Khonsomboon said Chaiyaphum had 81,192 rai of rubber plantations and some 8,000 farmers. Of these only about 2,000 owned the land, while the majority, or over 5,000, had rented land to grow rubber trees. Hence, he said, there was some concern that the subsidy - aimed for landowners - would not benefit many farmers.

Earlier on 9 Sept. 2013, the Cabinet approved the National Rubber Policy Committee's proposal that fertiliser subsidies for rubber farmers be doubled, a subsidy that will last for seven months, from September to March next year. The scheme will cost the government about Bt21.2 billion.

"It is equivalent to a subsidy of Bt12 per kg or Bt2,520 per rai," deputy government spokesperson Chalitrat Chantharubeksa.

The rubber policy committee had previously proposed a subsidy of Bt1,260/rai, but doubled the amount to please rubber farmers in the South, who were threatening to hold a major rally this Saturday (14 Sept. 2013) to demand that the price of rubber be set at between Bt95 and Bt100 per kg.

However, the government has chosen not to boost the price of rubber as demanded by the protesters, saying the subsidies would help boost farmers' income and help them earn as much as Bt90/kg of rubber.

Meanwhile, Iad Seng-iad - a protest leader from Nakhon Si Thammarat's Chu-uat district, announced that his job was done as he had succeeded in explaining to fellow farmers that the Bt2,520/rai subsidy was equivalent to rubber sheets being sold at Bt90/kg and that the government would not take these subsidies back if the price of rubber rose.

Source: Daily "The Nation", Bangkok; 11 Sept 2013(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)