THAILAND: Panel opts to double rubber subsidy

As the panel's chairman, Kittiratt said the new rate would be provided for up to 25 rai per case. The proposal will be submitted to the Cabinet today (10 Sept. 2013). He said the new rate would hike the budget for subsidy from Bt10.644 billion to Bt21.209 billion, adding that this assistance was on the principle of helping the farmers' production and not as an intervention in the para-rubber market mechanism. The price of rubber currently is Bt78/kilo.

Earlier yesterday (9 Sept. 2013), Deputy PM Pol General Pracha Promnog insisted that the government was committed to the previously agreed price of Bt90/kg for ribbed smoked sheets and said the policy committee would consider other measures for growers affected by the slumping prices.

Although most rubber growers were reportedly satisfied with the Bt90/kg price and ended their protests, farmers in Songkhla have threatened to close the Sadao border checkpoint and the Songkhla deep-sea port on 14 September 2013, demanding that the government either agree bring the price up to Bt95/kg or offer an additional Bt1,260/rai fertiliser subsidy. Growers in Nakhon Si Thammarat and some farmers from Surat Thani are reportedly eyeing protests on 14 September to demand a price of Bt100/kg.

Pracha said the committee to tackle the para-rubber problem had previously talked with 40-50 rubber growers, all of whom had agreed to the Bt90/kg price. He said this agreement was the majority's clear conclusion hence the government would stick with it, while the rubber policy committee would consider 4-5 aid measures, including the Bt1,260 per rai fertiliser subsidy. He said the threat to close key sites could inconvenience the public hence the farmers should send their requests to the committee.

Pracha said he would inform provincial governors of the 14 affected southern provinces, of the policy so they could explain details to the farmers.

Yet, Songkhla rubber farmers' representative Kajbundit Rammak said the protesters would close the Sadao border checkpoint and the Songkhla deep-sea port on 14 September if their demands were not met. He said many farmers who had previously agreed to the Bt90/kg offer but turned away after learning that the government wouldn't directly buy the rubber sheets at Bt90/kg, but would "help and compensate in other ways so rubber sheets could be sold at Bt90/kilo". The protesters will be meeting in Bangkok today (10 Sept. 2013) to decide on their next move.

Meanwhile, Trang Industry Council chairman Withee Supitak, also a Woodwork Group Co executive, urged the government to resolve the problem because para-rubber business operators didn't want protesters to block roads or ports.

Source: Daily "The Nation", Bangkok; 10 Sept 2013(Syed Rashid  Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)