'Sell the tractor, get a few odd jobs, grow some rice'
Record oil prices are forcing change and making people work harder to survive in
High oil prices loom not only over businesses and industries nationwide, but also the lives of rural folk as one person in Plap Pla in Roi Et's Chiang Kwan sub-district knows only too well.
For Samlee Rattanasen, 63, the spike in prices may end his career as a tractor contractor ploughing rice fields on
other people's land. He wants to sell his tractor because he can no longer afford the fuel.
"It's the worst year ever for me. I've had to cancel many jobs because they weren't worth the expense," he said gloomily.
Samlee bought his tractor two years ago for Bt170,000 in the hope that it would provide an alternative living. At first it seemed a good decision because he could earn about Bt5,000 a day, enabling him to make payments on the tractor.
Now he wants to sell it for Bt150,000 because he is losing money on his jobs even after raising his fee from Bt150 a rai to Bt250.
He has also lost customers who have complained that his fees are now too expensive and have turned to his competitors.
For another villager, Rangsi Wongsithep, 49, the high oil prices mean more hard work to make up for the increased expenses on the farm. "I used to hire a small tractor to plough my 30-rai rice field, as it was an inexpensive investment, but the high oil prices have now forced me to hire a bigger tractor so I can finish the ploughing earlier and use the spare time to work odd jobs," he said.
Tambon Plap Pla administration organisation member Sriprai Haraphum, 34, blames the higher prices not only for increased debts but also for fewer friends. Sriprai said the oil prices had affected the prices of other farming materials as well, forcing him this year to borrow more money, at least Bt40,000, from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, instead of borrowing
only Bt20,000, to work his 40-rai rice field.
He said he used to drive his neighbours around free of charge, but with the extra expense he now had to either turn them down or charge them.
Life in Roi Et's Muang district was not much better, said tuk-tuk driver Rieb Pornsak, 50. "My career faces difficulties because people don't go out so much these days. I bring much less money home; taking out the Bt150 petrol expense, I bring home
only about Bt30 to Bt40 a day. I may have to quit this job, and instead seriously work hard growing rice, using my tuk-tuk to carry hay for the cows," he said.