Social media users buying rice directly from farmers

rice4Social media is serving as a new market channel for rice farmers as Thai netizens, responding to a drop in rice prices that has been causing hardship for farmers, have begun buying rice directly from growers over the internet, in a development some cite as a rise in brotherhood, compassion and societal solidarity following the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Several businesses and organizations have also been pitching in, according to The Nation newspaper, by setting up spaces or impromptu markets where farmers can sell their rice directly to the public instead of going through millers or other middlemen who give them lower prices. Farmers have long complained that middlemen treat them unfairly on prices, and that they have little bargaining power.

Thailand’s 100 percent white grade B rice is the benchmark for global rice prices, used by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Export prices for Thai grade B have fallen from $465 a ton in February 2014 to $375 a ton in October.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej devoted a significant portion of his work to trying to improve the lives of Thailand’s rice farmers. He experimented and developed new higher yield strains of rice in his laboratory at Chitrlada Palace that would grow in the harsh conditions of the poor northeast. He encouraged farmers to diversify their crops and practice his Sufficiency Economics approach to build resiliency to price shocks and external factors. Several iconic images of the King sowing or harvesting rice have always been popular with the public.  The late King’s attention and care for the country’s rice farmers helped create empathy for them.

FAO and agriculture experts have long recommended that farmers form cooperatives and create their own small mills and markets to sell their produce directly to the public so their incomes will rise and their debts decrease.