Rubber planters gear up for rallies in Bangkok and Nakhon Si Thammarat

  • TO GO WITH ‘THAILAND-COMMODITIES-ECONOMY-POLITICS-RUBBER’ by Apilaporn VECHAKIJ This picture taken at dawn on October 1, 2014 shows the white liquid sap of a rubber tree dropping into a container after the tree was bled at a rubber plantation in the Ka Po village of the southern Thai province of Phang Nga. As rubber prices slump, hard up farmers in Thailand — the world’s top producer of the commodity — are appealing for a bail out, testing the junta’s resolve to end populist policies and the kingdom’s entrenched subsidy culture. AFP PHOTO/Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

Southern rubber planters have planned to converge in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Bangkok week to put pressure on Agriculture Minister Chatchai Sarikulya to purge the board of Rubber Authority of Thailand (RAOT) for alleged incompetency and mismanagement.

Meanwhile, another group of southern rubber planters have planned to rally simultaneously at Kuan Nong Hong intersection in Cha-uat district of Nakhon Si Thammarat for similar objective.

The planned protest in Bangkok was organized by the network of southern rubber planters.  Besides the call for the replacement of the entire RAOT board, including RAOT governor Titus Suksaard, the network has three other demands:  

  • RAOT must pull out of the Thai Rubber Joint Venture Co Ltd and set up a new joint venture firm with rubber planters. The Thai Rubber Joint Venture was a newly-established entity jointly-run by the RAOT and five major rubber exporters. The company purchase rubber products at higher-than-market prices to stabilize domestic rubber prices.
  • RAOT must strictly adhere to rules for rubber price management.
  • The government must earnestly promotes the use of rubber to spur domestic rubber usage.

RAOT governor Titus Suksaard

The network and rubber planters believe that rubber price slump was caused by mismanagement by the RAOT board in the management of rubber stockpiles bought by the Thai Rubber Joint Venture Co Ltd. The rubber stockpiles are kept at three central markets in Songkhla, Surat Thani and Buri Ram.

Agricultural commodities experts noted that despite the price slump, rubber prices now are still higher than the prices last year and nine years ago when rubber price dropped sharply.

However, they said, the current price is still insufficient to meet the costs shouldered by rubber farmers and not enough to make a decent living for rubber tappers.

Rubber bidding prices at the market in Hat Yai as on Nov 9 are as follows:  44.22 baht/kg for raw rubber sheets and 47 baht/kg for 3rd grade smoked rubber sheets.

There are some signs of disunity among rubber farmers in this planned protest.

Manas Boonpat, president of the association of rubber tappers and small plantation owners, who earlier organized a signature hunting campaign, announced that he would not take part in the planned rallies both in Bangkok and in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

He said he only planned to do the signature campaign to call for the ouster of the RAOT governor and board members. He did not want to scale it up into a mass rally.

Moreover, the rubber farmers could not agree on the rally site. This is why the planned demonstrations would be held at two sites–at Kuan Kong Hong intersection in Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue in Bangkok.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chatchai, meanwhile, insisted that he would not purge the RAOT board because he didn’t find any of them has under-performed or has failed to do their jobs properly.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister: rubber farmers’ move is politically motivated

He quoted the RAOT governor as claiming that the domestic price slump was caused by speculation in the futures market which is beyond the government’s control.  He also said that the signature hunting campaing to push for the RAOT board’s replacement was politically motivated.

The minister is of the opinion that the establishment of the Thai Rubber Joint Venture Co to absorb rubber surplus and four other measures adopted by the cabinet in June were the right approach to help increase rubber prices and, if more rubber is consumed domestically, there is a good chance that rubber prices will rebound.