UPDATE 1-Thailand to renew rice intervention scheme in October
BANGKOK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, will renew its intervention policy in October after the current scheme expires, aiming to buy up to 25 million tonnes of paddy to shore up prices, a senior government official said on Monday.
"The rice committee has agreed on the plan. We expect to spend around 400 billion baht and this plan is due to be submitted for cabinet approval soon," the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Yanyong Puangrach, told reporters. This figure is equivalent to $12.77 billion.
He said the new scheme would run from October 2012 through September 2013 to cover both major crop, second crop and off-season crop.
Under the scheme, the government would continue to pay farmers at 15,000 baht per tonne for white rice paddy, he added.
Industry officials said the target to buy 25 million tonnes of paddy would equate to around 80 percent of the country's annual rice output of around 30 million to 32 million tonnes.
Besides the target of 25 million tonnes it aims to buy, the government holds 17 million tonnes of paddy, or about 10 million tonnes of milled rice in stocks, which it has bought from farmers since October 2011.
Traders and exporters were not surprised, saying the government had vowed to continue with the policy, no matter how much it could cost.
"We have nothing to do with the policy. What we do now is to try to survive amid this situation," said Charoen Laothammatas, president of Uthai Produce.
Thailand exported 4.3 million tonnes of rice so far this year, down 46 percent from the same period of last year, because the intervention scheme pushed Thai prices to uncompetitive levels versus rice from Vietnam and India.
Exporters said Thai rice export was expected to fall sharply further and more Thai exporters would move to invest in neighbouring countries, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, to seek cheaper rice and export from there. ($1=31.3350 Thai baht) (Reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Editing by Alan Raybould and Clarence Fernandez)
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