The Ministry of Industry is proposing to the Thai Cabinet a plan to end sugarcane farmers’ annual burn-off of their plantations before harvesting. The practice is being largely blamed for the north’s smog problems.
But they are recommending a three year moratorium before completely stamping out the annual agri-burning.
Thai PBS reports that the plan will be incorporated into a ministerial regulation to be enforceable during the 2019-20 sugarcane crop year and seeks to force sugar mills to accept only 30% of burned sugarcane for milling, with a further reduction to 20% for the 2020-21 crop year and to no more than five percent for the third crop year.
The plan doesn’t address how there can be any improvement in the north’s smoke problems for the next three seasons.
Thai sugarcane farmers prefer burning sugarcane to make it easier to cut and to save labour costs. However, the burned sugarcane is of lower quality and has reduced sweetness. Burning of sugarcane has also been blamed for creating smog in some provinces containing large sugarcane plantations, such as Khon Kaen in Thailand’s north-east.
In order to encourage farmers to switch to the use of machinery, which is more costly, the Industry Ministry will also propose the provision of cheap loans to allow the purchase of new machinery. It is estimated this could amount to six billion baht over a three year period. Farmer’s cooperatives and community enterprises will be encouraged to invest in cane-cutting machinery to move over to more environmentally sustainable practices.
The ministry also aims to make Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi, Chaiyaphum, Loei and Uttradit provinces free from sugarcane burning as of this year.