China has scrapped a deal to buy 1.2m tonnes of Thai rice, about 14 per cent of annual exports, because of a corruption probe into Bangkok’s troubled agricultural subsidies scheme, dealing a huge blow to the embattled government.
Beijing was spooked by the Thai national anti-graft agency’s probe into the rice price support programme, Thailand’s commerce minister said. A Thai bank also pulled its support for the project, which has been plagued by funding shortages that are triggering protests from unpaid farmers.
The rice scheme’s growing problems are piling pressure on Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister, as she tries to stave off renewed efforts by the opposition to unseat her after it boycotted and disrupted elections at the weekend.
Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan, the commerce minister, said China pulled out of the rice deal because it “lacks confidence to do business with us”, after the anti-corruption commission opened an investigation last month into a subsidy scheme that is soaking up $4bn a year officially and much more by other estimates. Public details on the probe are vague.
Mr Niwatthamrong said the government would start the process next week to sell 400,000 tonnes of rice from huge stockpiles that have built up because falling rice prices globally mean disposing of it would crystallise a huge loss.
State-owned Krung Thai Bank added to the government’s rice woes by refusing to issue further funding for the scheme, which has not paid some farmers since October.
国有的泰京银行(Krung Thai Bank)也加剧了政府的大米困境，该行拒绝向该计划提供更多资金。自去年10月以来，这项计划一直未向一些售米的农民付款。