Thailand plans $6.3b aid for farmers hit by Covid-19, other disasters

BANGKOK • Thailand plans to dole out nearly 155 billion baht (S$6.35 billion) in cash to millions of farmers reeling from the impacts of Covid-19, floods, droughts and poor crop prices.

The Cabinet will consider a programme to allot the funds to growers of rice, rubber, oil palm and other crops at a meeting next Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Facebook.

The government will transfer the cash to the accounts of eligible farmers through the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, he said. The payments will be expedited as price-support measures for rice, rubber and palm oil as well as to prevent distress sales of agriculture produce, Mr Prayut added.

Earlier yesterday, the nation's monetary and fiscal policy committee approved raising the ratio of government borrowing from state banks to 35 per cent of the federal budget outlay, from 30 per cent, to fund the payout.

The largess for farmers comes amid growing speculation of an early election as Mr Prayut seeks to win over rural voters, a traditional support base of parties aligned to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Prayut's royalist-backed government has faced criticism over the handling of the Covid-19 crisis from opposition parties and pro-democracy groups which have been pressing for reforms to the Constitution and monarchy.

The government will need to approve borrowing of between 80 billion baht and 90 billion baht to support the farmers, Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said. The new borrowing ratio will be published in the Royal Gazette within two to three days, he said.

Flooding in September and October caused as much as 8.4 billion baht in damages to Thailand's rice industry alone, exacerbating woes of farmers already hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic and poor prices, according to a report from Kasikorn Research, a unit of Kasikornbank.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Thailand plans $6.3b aid for farmers hit by Covid-19, other disasters'. Subscribe