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Thailand set four-year strategic plan for rice industry
The Nation, June 12, 2004
The strategic rice plan sets three quantitative targets for 2008, chief inspector Apichart Pongsrihadulchai said yesterday.

Farm income was expected to rise from Bt139.58 billion last year, or Bt36,888 per household, to Bt226.74 billion, or Bt59,920 per household.

Rice exports were expected to grow from Bt82.16 billion last year to Bt113.25 billion and imports of Japanese rice to taper off from the last year's level of Bt227 million.

The key factors in achieving these goals are raising rice productivity and value added to the product, Apichart said.

Yields will be enhanced through advances in the quality of production inputs, such as farming infrastructure, irrigation systems, soil, machinery and seeds.

Returns from rice growing will be boosted by supporting research and development for rice products and by-products, creating local brand names, upgrading packaging, raising rice production standards and urging farmers to plant rice varieties for niche markets in order to gain a trade advantage.

The plan seeks to lift farmers' standard of living by guiding them to become entrepreneurs, promoting sustainable production techniques, reducing chemical use in paddies and implementing a rice product guarantee.

A government body will be set up to conduct new product development, improve product transformation and find markets for the products.

Suvan Kathawut, president of the Thai Rice Growers' Association, said the strategic plan would facilitate the establishment of systematic guidelines for rice-growing and rice-trading, which would benefit farmers.

'A lack of quality standards in rice production is a problem in the business. The plan will serve as a long-term solution and in its turn elevate farmers' dignity and living conditions,' he said.

Pramote Vanichanont, president of the Thai Rice Mills Association, said the plan should be more than 80 per cent focused on relieving production weaknesses since farmers were the main players in the whole process of rice-trading.

'The plan will not be able to make farmers rich. However, the strategies of reducing production costs and losses in harvests and increasing the yield and quality of rice together with seeds will be able to give them a higher income, and that will make their lives better,' he said.

The government should give farmers access to financial assistance and educate them in rice-marketing and channels of distribution so they can sell their crop at a good price, he said.

Vichai Sriprasert, president of the Rice Exporters' Association, said world rice prices had drifted down over the past 50 years, causing suffering for growers. However, increasing rice yields, lowering costs and letting the market mechanism function properly will lead to higher prices since demand for rice has picked up recently along with the expansion in world population, he noted.

Thailand is the biggest rice-exporter, though its yield is lower than that of regional rivals such as China and Vietnam. Thailand produced 345 kilograms per rai against China's 999kg last year, and the Kingdom's exports of 7.34 million tonnes accounted for 27 per cent of world rice trade.
MGR Archive 14.6.2004
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