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Thai rice pledging, moisture content, and corruption

To receive the full 15,000 baht/tonne, the paddy must not hold more than 15% moisture content. If the moisture measuring device is rigged to show higher moisture content, the weight of paddy is deducted at 15kg per tonne for every 1% moisture level over the 15% limit.

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Veera in the Bangkok Post:

The government, especially commerce officials, should have known that farmers would never get the promised pledging prices, and that the differential between the prices set for pawned crops and the money that ended up in the farmers’ hands would go into the pockets of others involved in the scheme. Farmers complain the 15% moisture content rule has been widely abused by millers to lower the price paid.

The Bangkok Post:

Rice costs more than 8,000 baht per tonne to produce and the 12,000 baht pledging price can be reduced by up to 15% to account for moisture content in the rice, he explained. Farmers could receive just 9,000 to 9,500 baht per tonne after deductions for excessive moisture, Mr Prasit [Boonchoey, chairman of the Thai Farmers Association] said.

Samien Hongtoh, chairman of the central region’s farmers’ network, said he is waiting for information on new rules about moisture content. If the government sets a price of 12,000 baht and then subtracts fees for the 15% moisture content, farmers will never accept the price, because they would end up getting only 8,000-9,000 baht a tonne. Moisture content is currently relevant to price in the government’s purchase programme.

Mr Samien said if the moisture content level is set at 25%, it would be acceptable, because farmers would wind up with more than 10,000 baht from pledging the rice.

BP: What is annoying about this is that there is plenty of information online explaining about moisture content. Here is an explanation from an academic paper (PDF):

After harvesting, the moisture content of rice paddy is as high as 19%-26 % (wet basis) and even higher during the rainy season. Rice paddy is usually dried to reduce moisture content to 14% or lower for a safe storage before a milling process. However, if the moisture content in paddy is too low, the grains are so fragile when being milled. This can lead to higher fraction of broken kernels. Keeping the rice paddy at acceptable moisture content can prolong storage time and prevent mould growth.

From a Belgium agricultural Web site (PDF):

Moisture content
Moisture content has a marked influence on all aspects of paddy and rice quality and it is essential that paddy be milled at the proper moisture content to obtain the highest head rice yield. Paddy is at its optimum milling potential at moisture content of 14% wet weight basis. Grains with high moisture content are too soft to withstand hulling pressure which results in grain breakage and possibly pulverization of the grain. Grain that is too dry becomes brittle and has greater breakage. Moisture content and temperature during the drying process is also critical as it determines whether small fissures and/or full cracks are introduced into the grain structure.

The Thai Agricultural Standard from 2008 also sets out (PDF):

2.2 Dry paddy rice means paddy rice with the moisture of less than 15% for trade rice.

To receive the full 15,000 baht/tonne, the paddy must not hold more than 15% moisture content. If the moisture measuring device is rigged to show higher moisture content, the weight of paddy is deducted at 15kg per tonne for every 1% moisture level over the 15% limit. For example, if the moisture content is 16%, one tonne of paddy is calculated to weigh 985kg. If the moisture content is 17%, one tonne of paddy is calculated to weigh only 970kg. Instead of receiving 15,000 baht, 450 baht will be deducted if the moisture content is 17%.

As if this is not enough, the pledged paddy must not have more than 2% foreign elements. If more, money is also deducted. All in all, farmers usually receive 12,000-12,500 baht for one pledged tonne of paddy, not the full 15,000 baht, notes Dr Anant.

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Thai rice pledging, moisture content, and corruption

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