The farmers demanded the government shore up cassava prices and formulate a long-term plan to boost agriculture.
They said the government's price intervention for 10 million tonnes, the highest guaranteed volume, was inadequate. Moreover, there are not enough warehouses to hold cassava stocks during the harvest season.
Chanthaburi cassava grower Usa Pitaraphodhi said farmers always suffered from fluctuating commodity prices and unclear government policies regarding guaranteed prices.
"The government has never introduced long-term measures to help farmers, but rather only set up price-intervention projects year by year. And each government measure is always changed following a change in government," she said.
The government has come under pressure from different groups of farmers and activists rallying for better prices for rice, sticky rice, milk and corn. They would like higher price guarantees following oversupply and falling prices.
The government has consistently failed to set a national agenda for farm-goods management. Doing so would not only address falling prices, but also ensure sustainable development for the agricultural sector in the long term.
Pongsak Liuthaveesriprakai, a representative of cassava farmers from Chanthaburi, said the group could not cultivate their products now, because government regulations forbade cross-area transportation.
"Farmers cannot sell their products to middlemen within each area, due to limited warehouse space. But the government's recent decision to put cassava and corn on a watch list forbidding their cross-area transportation has reduced farmers' opportunities to sell the crops in other provinces," said Pongsak. The government must allow free transportation of cassava and corn crops and extend its price-intervention programme to ensure farmers can sell their crops to the government in times of falling market prices.
Under the government's pledging scheme, the guaranteed price for cassava is Bt2 to Bt2.09 per kilogram. But the present market price is quoted at Bt1.20 to Bt1.30. It costs Bt1.50 to grow one kilogram of cassava.
Moreover, due to ineffective pledging-programme management, commodities from neighbouring countries have circumvented to the pledging schemes.
Yung Polkool, a village leader in Chanthaburi's Pong Nam Ron district, said large volumes of cassava from Cambodia had entered Thailand's pledging scheme, resulting in an oversupply of cassava in the district's warehouses. The government must urgently solve this problem. Farmers are suffering because they cannot cultivate and sell their products for enough money for their daily needs, he said.
The government's earlier intervention projects for rice and corn also faced circumvention problems, illustrating the failure of the government's management of farm crops.
Instead of Thai farmers enjoying a guaranteed price, the government has lost large sums of money inadvertently helping neighbouring countries without concrete measures to prevent the problem.
So far, the government has spent more than Bt100 billion on rice-price intervention in the latest harvest season and is projected to spend another Bt100 billion for the upcoming harvest season, Bt4.2 billion on corn and Bt9.4 billion on cassava.