One million tonnes to be sold at cost price
MugCap1Mingkwan: `Aimed at low-income earners'
They would be available next month and priced at cost. The project will be handled by the state-owned Public Warehouse Organisation, the Internal Trade Department and provincial commerce offices across the country with the focus mainly on low-income earners.
Mr Mingkwan, who is also deputy prime minister, said the government saw no need to rush into auctioning rice from the government stockpile.
The rice stockpile stands at 2.109 million tonnes. The rice stock in the government's central storehouses totaling 1.964 million tonnes was reported intact, but of the remaining 145,000 tonnes which was placed with milled rice, about 13,000 tonnes was found to be missing, as rice mill owners had taken it to sell at higher prices.
The minister pledged to take action against smugglers and ban them from participating in any future rice projects.
To make the most of high rice prices overseas, the ministry also wants to sell the second crop of about six million tonnes of paddy, or about 4.2 million tonnes of white rice, for export.
International rice prices have risen recently due to inadequate supplies to meet global demand. Drought in Indonesia and the Philippines coupled with crop diseases in Vietnam and delayed exports from India have pushed prices up, with import demands from China growing annually.
''Rice prices have hit a 100-year high, which is good for Thai farmers,'' he said. ''But to protect local consumers from high prices, the ministry will allocate some of its stockpile to sell to the market at an affordable price.''
The minister urged farmers not to rush into selling, as the rice price is expected to rise further.
The government is also preparing additional measures to cut production costs including steps to curb fertiliser hoarding by manufacturers.
Paddy rice yesterday fetched 11,800 to 12,000 baht per tonne, up from 6,450 baht a tonne in the same month of last year, according to the Internal Trade Department.
Director-general of the Internal Trade Department Yanyong Phuangrach said the packed rice plan was unlikely to affect local rice packers, as the government has about 2.1 million tonnes in its stockpile, and the private sector has rice stocks on hand of another 2.1 million tonnes.
Thailand is projected to export 8.75 million tonnes of rice this year.