Prachuap farmers distressed from falling coconut prices, blame ‘Free Trade’

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN: Farmers are demanding the government intervene to curb unchecked cross-border trade, as coconut prices at local markets have fallen to or below the cost of production.

A representative from the Prachuap Coconut Farmers Network staged a press conference in December to seek clarity from the Commerce and Agriculture ministries in the face of plummeting coconut prices, Matichon reports.

UPDATE: A follow-up by Matichon on December 13 cited the deputy governor of Prachuap Khiri Khan acknowledging that there were cases of smuggled coconuts being intercepted at a border point in southern Thailand.

The price of coconuts has reportedly dropped to THB 5-8 per fruit in local markets, while production costs are cited to be about the same; speaking at a press conference, the representative cited oversupply as a result of ongoing imports of Indonesian coconuts under the framework of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).

Farmers had previously met with officials in Bang Saphan district back in October, when it was reportedly agreed that the government would either reduce or halt imports of coconuts to stabilize prices; however, this has not yet happened, according to the report, which cited official concerns that by employing such controls on inbound trade, Thailand risks not fulfilling its obligations under AFTA and WTO fanmeworks.

Nonetheless, Deputy Governor Phirom Ninthaya assured the press that the government is has prioritized the issue and is in the process of establishing a local coconut production and supply database under a project dubbed the “Prachuap Model”.

 By taking an academic approch to formally quantify market supply and demand factors, officials will be able to determine if imports are necesarry, and thus whether an embargo, as farmers have demanded, is justified.

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