Bangkok Post | 30 September 2009
Group plans modern farming of 5,000 rai
AYUTTHAYA : About 70 rice farmers have been given two years to vacate 5,000 rai of farmland they have been leasing from the TCC Group owned by liquor tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.
Farmer representatives led by Somjit Jankaew yesterday said they would sign an agreement with the TCC Group after six hours of talks which were mediated by a public prosecutor from the provincial state attorney's office.
The farmers had earlier sought to have their leases extended to 2015 so they could break even. They each pay an annual rent of 700 baht a rai.
The agreement reached with the group calls for the farmers to return the land by Sept 30, 2011, in exchange for a lease waiver for one year in 2011.
The farmland is owned by Terragrow Co, a subsidiary of the TCC Group, which plans to use the land for its "modern agriculture" business. The land is in Bang Ban, Sena and Phak Hai districts.
The company agreed to offer the farmers and their families appropriate wages if it needed labour after it takes over the running of the land.
Mr Somjit 55, said it was the best deal the farmers could secure.
"It is not our land. All we can do is just pray there is no flood or any kind of disaster to our harvest during the next two years," he said.
The TCC Group's move to terminate the farmers' leases comes amid increased concerns that foreign firms are taking a controlling interest in rice farms in many "rice belt" central provinces.
Thai companies have been accused of acting as nominees for foreign businesses but the TCC Group has never been accused of the practice.
A TCC Group senior executive said the group planned to develop the 5,000 rai for its modern agriculture business and as a learning ground to enable Thailand to stay competitive in the world's farm sector.
It is intended to be a prototype for rice farming in low-lying areas which are inundated every year.
With an irrigation system, the areas can be used for rice farming all year round, the group said.
Representatives said the group had done its best to help the farmers by giving them two years to leave. The law only requires one year's eviction notice.
Wichian Kaewthong, 59, who leases 100 rai, said he had invested heavily in the land and needed at least six years to recoup his investment."I am old and do not think I can work on the farm if I have to return the land," he said. "The young ones may seek farm jobs but their wages should not be below 300 baht a day."