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Thailand approves $300 million aid for drought-stricken sugarcane farmers

FILE PHOTO: Sugarcane is seen after being harvested in a field at Pakchong district in Ratchaburi province, Thailand March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand approved 10 billion baht ($319 million) in aid on Tuesday for its sugarcane farmers, whose output has been hit by drought.

Thailand is the world’s second-largest sugar exporter, behind Brazil, but its production plunged by more than 40% in the December-April season from a year earlier, as it crushed the lowest volume of sugar cane in a decade as a prolonged drought undermined yield.

The government expects that around 300,000 sugarcane farmers would receive the financial aid, said Ratchada Thanadirek, a deputy government spokeswoman.

“Sugarcane farmers were severely impacted by drought this year and they also bore higher costs of production per tonne,” Ratchada said after the cabinet approved the aid package at a meeting.

“The government sympathizes with sugarcane farmers.”

Thailand’s cane production next season is expected to further decline by around 20%, the Office of the Cane and Sugar Fund has forecast, as drought continued while farmers planted new crops in April and early May, and as the coronavirus pandemic hits the global economy and reduces demand for sugar. The drought has now eased, however.

($1 = 31.3400 baht)

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Susan Fenton