The government is likely to call a bid to sell its rice stocks next week, Commerce minister Boonsong Teriyapirom says.
The amount of rice to be sold will not exceed one million tonnes to minimise the impact of the sale on the price of rice, he said yesterday.
Boonsong said the Department of Foreign Trade is expected to finish drafting the terms of reference (ToR) early next week, after which the bid will be called. He said the ToR will be broad and open to allow private operators to participate.
He said talks on government-to-government rice purchase contracts are continuing and estimated that several million tonnes of rice will be released under this method.
The government is hoping to secure a contract with Jakarta at the end of this month, he said.
The commerce minister said Thailand will be able to retain its position as the world’s leading rice exporter this year, with estimated exports of 8-9 million tonnes.
Boonsong said there are 16.9 million tonnes of paddy rice in stock – 6.9 million tonnes of rice from the 2011-12 main crop and 10 million tonnes from the second-season crop.
He admitted that the rice sales are expected to generate a loss of about 20 billion baht. But he said this amount was far below the 76 billion baht loss incurred by the previous Democrat Party-led administration’s scheme.
He dismissed as groundless a report that about 3 million tonnes of paddy from neighbouring countries have been smuggled in to take advantage of the government’s rice pledging scheme.
Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia have combined rice exports of 1.3 million tonnes, he said.
Meanwhile, Sakon Nakhon police will ask the Department of Special Investigation and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate an official of the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) and two workers on charges of corruption connected to the rice pledging scheme.
Police say PWO official Boonkhum Somdejwiset and two employees were reckless in their duties related to the scheme, causing damage to the state.
The move follows the arrests of three people for alleged graft in connection with the scheme early this month.
The suspects are accused of issuing fake documents used by farmers to cash money at a bank for pledged rice.
Sakon Nakhon police chief Polsak Banjongsiri said the police probe into allegations of corruption in the rice pledging scheme in the province is not yet complete and will take some time.
He said three groups are victims of pledge scheme fraud – the state, rice farmers and rice mills.
In Buri Ram, police yesterday inspected Buri Ram Rungruang, one of 16 rice mills taking part in the pledging scheme, for signs of irregularities.
No suspected activities were detected.
A team of five police will be deployed at the six participating rice mills in Buri Ram to monitor the pledging process to deter fraud and graft until the scheme ends in late September.