News / Asia

Thailand Ends Controversial Rice Subsidy Scheme

FILE - Thai workers unload rice from the truck of a farmer, at a rice collection center, in the northeastern province of Roi Et , in Thailand.
FILE - Thai workers unload rice from the truck of a farmer, at a rice collection center, in the northeastern province of Roi Et , in Thailand.
Ron Corben
Thailand's military government ended a rice price-support scheme, put in place under the former civilian government, as investigations continue into widespread corruption and losses of billions of dollars from the program.

The policy change comes as Thailand is predicted to return as the world's largest rice exporter, eclipsing the current market leader, India.

Thailand's military leader, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, said all rice price-support schemes were dismissed unless they provided direct benefits to the farmers. Prayuth said alternative measures were needed to boost agricultural development and support to farmers.
 
FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
x
FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
FILE - Thai farmers march through the street during a rally to put pressure on the Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 7, 2014.
Under the rice price-support scheme of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the government paid farmers 50 percent more than world market prices. The government believed the plan could make Thailand, then the world's largest rice exporter, a price leader and force up global rice prices.

The program was a central policy of Yingluck's government and key to the Pheu Thai party's 2011 election victory.

But the scheme, costing over $19 billion and shrouded in official secrecy, floundered as Thailand, unable to sell its rice at the higher prices, was left with millions of tons of the grain in warehouses, while the government was engulfed by allegations of widespread corruption.  
 
Government financing for the scheme dried up last year, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid.

About 20 farmers are alleged to have committed suicide because of financial distress, while others took to the streets in protest in Bangkok pleading for funds.

In March, Yingluck's caretaker government, in a bid to raise money, began releasing rice at discounted prices onto the world market.

Thailand's warehouses could be holding as much as 18 million tons of rice - double normal levels.
 
David Dawe, a senior economist with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said sales of Thai rice this year led to lower global prices.

"One of the ways that they were raising money is they realized that they were going to have to sell some of the huge stocks that they had," Dawe said. "They just couldn't continue to borrow money and sit on all these stocks and so they just started selling stocks. Thailand only went out of the market because they were trying to hoard everything."
 
Corruption charges

In early May, prior to the military takeover of the Thai government, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) found Yingluck at least partially responsible for corruption related to the scheme.

A subcommittee is examining the former prime minister's declared assets along with those of other cabinet members linked to the program.
 
Farmers from neighboring rice-growing countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia, were illegally shipping their rice to Thailand to be sold at the higher prices. Rice millers are also under investigation for overstating rice stocks.
 
The NACC is investigating losses of up to $16 billion, with almost 3 million tons of rice missing from warehouses.
 
Thai Rice Exporters Association honorary president, Vichai Sriprasert, said the military is now assessing the actual quantity of rice in warehouses.
 
"We address first the quantity - let's say the quantity, how many tons do we have? That hasn't been resolved yet. And after the quantity is resolved, to check the quality is much more difficult because the warehouse is full," Vichai said. "You cannot really go into the center of the warehouse. It's not possible to do that now - but once you know the quantity is correct, then the second stage would be to identify quality."
 
Currently, Vichai said Thai rice is the cheapest on the global market, as the country works to clear the backlog.
 
However, the outlook for Thai rice is optimistic.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said Thailand is forecast to be the largest rice exporter again by 2015, shipping almost 10 million tons - the highest since a record of 10.6 million tons in 2011 prior to the rice-price scheme.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Akearoon from: Thailand
June 17, 2014 5:16 AM
There's still no real proof of corruption yet! It's just an allegation. If later found out the corruption allegation is nonsense, the rice price-support program should be brought back to reimplement as a way to improve farmers' income. Should not this be a good policy for a good government?
In Response

by: Ryan Coughlin from: Bangkok
June 22, 2014 9:54 AM
I would like to see someone show ANY evidence that the existed any sort of official corruption in the rice plan. Just because people say something enough times, doesn't make it true.
In Response

by: Theodore Whittlinger from: Nevada
June 17, 2014 3:58 PM
The article points out that the program was a FAILURE at all levels! The rice could not be sold at the high price that resulted from the program. Corruption is only a part of the problem - also, I have been in Thailand many times for extended stays and, like you if you are honest, corruption is always involved in government programs!

by: Dolamite from: US
June 17, 2014 1:42 AM
Would you have expected anything less from the likes of this country. Pretty much a no brainer.

by: Mark Olanackaraseyranee
June 16, 2014 1:11 PM
Finally an end to a nightmare for the farmer and taxpayer of Thailand.
In Response

by: Medulla Oblongata from: Bangkok Thailand
June 17, 2014 1:37 AM
Couldn't agree more Mark. Good riddance of this unrealistic corruption plagued scheme designed by Taksin for grabbing farmers' votes. Populist propaganda don't sell any more..rural people are now wiser.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs