Rice farmers in Thailand working in their fields. Photo: AFP
Rice farmers in Thailand working in their fields. Photo: AFP

The Thai government is pushing ahead with plans to increase the incomes of 1.3 million farmers who have been relying on their rice crops to make a living.

Krisadaa Bonraat, who is in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, on Wednesday revealed a productivity and marketing plan aimed at improving the livelihoods of farmers plagued with low prices for their produce due to oversupplies.

The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives have created an agriculture productivity plan to reduce off-season rice crops in some areas and propose growing other crops instead.

They say the plan could increase earnings to 2,750 baht per 1,600 square meters for 1.3 million farmers, adding up to a total of 2.3 billion baht. The proposal includes using about 1,300 agricultural cooperatives to do food processing businesses and also open marketing routes for the private sector to buy rice from farmers, which will help reduce the oversupply in the market. It would also increase the price of rice, they say. 

In the dry season, in November, Krisadaa suggested farmers grow corn for animal food – if comparing the profit with growing rice in the off-season and growing corn, corn gives 10 times more profit than rice and there is also a better market for corn. 

The debts of 36,000 farmers has been paid off through the agriculture productivity plan.  

However, the low price of rice has been overshadowed this week by the fall in the price of sugarcane and the Thai government is giving 6.5 billion baht worth of financial aid to sugarcane farmers.

World sugar prices have decreased 75%, hitting growers and Thailand’s sugar industry hard. In January, the price of domestic sugar was 17-18 baht per kilogram, down from 19-20 baht per kilogram in the same period last year. The cane price this year is 680 baht per ton, the lowest in five years.