CHIANG RAI – Farmers of various crops are crying foul over the government decision to award subsidies to rice farmers while ignoring the others.
“It’s unfair. The government doesn’t treat all farmers equally,” chief adviser to the Chiang Rai-based Rubber Plantation Cooperative, Narong Boriparak, said yesterday.
He was speaking in response to the government project offering about Bt1,000 subsidy per rai of paddy field to rice farmers so as to help them shoulder the cost of cultivation. The ceiling for the subsidy is set at Bt15,000.
The price of rice has been falling. Jinda Oumyart, a 54-year-old farmer in Pathum Thani province, said she could sell a tonne of rice at only Bt6,000 to Bt7,000.
“For rice farmers to survive, we should at least earn about Bt9,000 per tonne,” she said. She added that the cost of cultivation per rai of paddy field had reached about Bt5,500 and Bt5,600.
Narong argued that rubber growers too faced rising costs, as fertilisers and other farming tools were all becoming more expensive.
“We feel slighted,” he said.
Boonyoung Prommuang, who chairs the rubber panel of the Chiang Rai Farmers Council, said rubber price was spiralling downward, too, but the government had yet to provide any assistance.
Utairat Boontiam, who heads a corn farmers’ group in Chiang Mai’s Mae Chaem district, asked what the government planned to do for corn growers.
“We will rally if the government continues to ignore us,” he said.
He said the government should help them find markets and bypass middlemen.
Meanwhile, the Northeastern Rice Farmers’ Association president, Panupong Pattarakhon-ngam, did not welcome the government’s move either.
He pointed out that many farmers had rented land from landlords and might have difficulty getting the government subsidy in practice.
“Even if the landowners allow the farmers to produce the land-lease documents for claiming subsidy, they will demand that farmers give them a greater share in the rice output,” Panupong said.
In his opinion, farmers will not be the true beneficiaries of such a government project.
Panupong also questioned why relevant authorities were not striving harder to control the prices of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
However, many small-scale farmers are happy with the government’s promise to pay subsidies.
Somsak Lamuncha, whose paddy fields cover about 13 rai, said he felt thankful for the government’s latest move.
“I think farmers will benefit, including those who have to rent plots of land from landlords,” he said.
By Ayuthai Nonnitirat, Kawintra Jaiseu