The “Holy Cow” Policy
The infamous one-million-cattle policy was originally designed by none other than political veteran Somsak Thepsuthin during the Thaksin administration. The policy was introduced as a means for workers in the agricultural sector to be relieved from their debts by raising state-subsidized cattle and selling them off.
On a side note, Mr. Somsak is one of three “Sam Mitr” members who have been working behind-the-scenes to recoup politicians from various political parties to join a party of their making.
Not long after the policy was being touted by the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party the media began to purge it, claiming that it was “converting the country’s agricultural sector into slaves of private cattle farms”. The policy attempted to rebound itself several times during elections, but eventually died down. However, 14 years later the same man is proposing to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to bring the cattle policy back to life.
The original edition to the policy which was created by Mr. Somsak was called the “One Million Cattle Thai Rak Thai” policy, which aimed to purchase 1 million cattle and distribute them to farmers so that they could generate extra revenue from them. However, the reality behind the shady policy was likely going to give them close to nothing.
The farmers are expected to raise the cattle which belongs to the government, as they will not receive ownership over them. On top of that, they are entitled to pay 10% in interests per year coupled with an additional 15% SPV. This leaves farmers who are given these grants a net profit of around 1-2 baht a day which is extremely disadvantageous and redundant for their efforts.
Aside from the policy’s futility for farmers, the true bread winners in this deal are big investors and politicians who stockpiled over 300,000 cattle from neighboring countries for the government to give away on loan.
The now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party repackaged the policy during elections, adding even more fluff to the deal and promising 5 million cattle for 1 million homes. They never lived up to this promise.
Yet again, the policy was re-introduced for the third time by Khun Ying Sudarat Keyuraphan who was then former Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. In 2005, she promised the people to give away 1 million cattle to 1 million homes under one simple condition; to raise it for 1 single year and sell it off to the private sector for profit. After constant delays in fulfilling this promise, the policy finally went to rest…until now.
In 2017, Mr. Somsak, the original creator of the policy, has vowed to propose the cattle policy once again to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to consider with some adjustments to the payback method.
The latest adaptation will grant farmers a total of two cattle and the loan will be based on the net weight of the cattle they receive. Although they will not be given ownership over them, they can repopulate the cows over the course of 10 years and the government will only demand the net weight of the 2 cattle they were initially granted.
It is true that the new draft has removed the burdens of interest rates and SPVs for farmers, but the underlying problem continues to be demand and supply. The government must consider how many cattle will be produced by the 10-year interest-free loan as Thailand can see an influx of 10s of millions of cows in the country.
Promoting farmers for the literal “cashcow” initiative at a national level, like many other industries such as rubber, durian and rice is extremely susceptible to an over-supply. If the policy is fruitful, we might see farmers slashing prices to middlemen and investors as competition becomes too saturated.
This also completely disregards the environmental impact to the country from raising an extra 10 million cattle.
Moving forward with this policy will require detailed research and discretion before approval, as we might wind up creating an extra burden rather than a relief for the farmers in need.