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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.