Prayut lays out measures to help rubber planters, blames Thaksin government for rubber crisis

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has blamed the Thaksin government’s policy in 2004 to promote the expansion of one million rai of rubber plantations for today’s rubber surplus, making Thailand the world’s biggest rubber producer and exporter and the resulting nosedive in its prices.

In his weekly nation-wide address, the prime minister said his government had to step in to help rubber planters and rubber tappers who are suffering from the consequences of a misguided policy of the previous government.

He did not name the Thaksin government by name but it is clear he believes the administration’s promotion of rubber planting has led to continuing glut of rubber supplies which have suppressed prices. Rubber plants in the south have been putting pressure on the Prayut government to come to their rescue.

He said the government had studied the basics of the rubber problem and the origin of the crisis now and has come up with some short-term measures to deal with the falling rubber prices to be submitted to the Rubber Committee and the Natural Rubber Policy Committee for consideration.

The first urgent measure is to launch an occupational training programme for rubber planters and rubber tappers so they can make some extra earnings by working while rubber prices are still low, said the prime minister.

The second measure is to convince rubber planters to cut down rubber trees which are 15 or 25 years old and which have low yield and to replace them with other plants.  In the meantime, furniture makers should be given incentives in using rubber wood in the making of furniture.

The third measure is to urge rubber planters to suspend the tapping of rubber latex while rubber prices are low for 1-2 months.  Through this measure, the prime minister said that the amount of rubber in the market can be cut down by up to 500,000 tonnes and this may stimulate the prices to go up.

He said if 80 percent of rubber planters agreed with this measure, the government would instruct agencies concerned to introduce supplementary occupations so the planters and the rubber tappers can make some earnings during the no rubber tapping period.

For the next measure, the prime minister said the government would seek cooperation from the private sector such as car tire producers and dealers to launch a promotional campaign to encourage motorists to change their car tires at discount prices with the receipts from the tire purchases to be used as tax deductions.

Finally, he said the government would encourage more use of rubber and rubber products, starting from the government sector and eventually to the other sectors.

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