| BANGKOK, March 28
BANGKOK, March 28 Thai rice prices have been
tumbling and are expected to keep dropping over the next few
weeks as more supply comes to market and after the government
was forced to shelve a controversial scheme to support farmers.
Falling prices, with the country's second harvest of the
crop year being gathered and the government selling rice from
its stockpiles, could prolong protests on the streets of Bangkok
by farmers demanding outstanding payments from the canned
That would pile further pressure on the caretaker government
of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, already reeling after
months of unrest in the capital.
The price of common grade 5-percent broken Thai white rice
had fallen 12 percent from early this year to $390 per tonne on
Friday, traders said. It stood at around $410 last week.
"Rising supply during the harvesting season and government
rice stock sales have dragged prices down," said a Bangkok-based
Harvesting of the second crop began last month, with around
10 million tonnes of paddy expected to be reaped.
The government has also offloaded 730,000 tonnes of rice
from its stocks, saying it plans to sell more to raise funds.
"The government has no plan to help us," said Prasit
Boonchoey, head of the Thai Farmers Association.
"It's like we are set adrift as prices keep falling and the
government does nothing."
Yingluck dissolved parliament in early December, and has
said her current caretaker government does not have the power to
renew the rice-buying scheme, which expired on Feb. 28.
She had swept to power in 2011 on the back of rural votes
generated in part by the subsidies.
Since the demise of the programme, domestic paddy prices
have fallen sharply to 5,500 Thai baht ($170) per tonne. That is
way below the 15,000 baht the government paid under the
Looking for outstanding payments and financial support from
the government, farmers have been protesting in Bangkok since
mid-February, blocking traffic in front of the Ministry of
"We have nothing to do but protest to show that we have
demands, otherwise we won't get any help," said Kittisak Waraha,
a protest leader.
($1 = 32.5700 Thai Baht)
(Editing by Joseph Radford)