Thailand has issued a warning against sticky rice hoarders who are looking to take advantage of a recent surge in prices: Do so and risk jail time.
The country is taking steps to stem the shortage of glutinous rice after prices surged to a more than five-year high. Anyone involved in the rice business, including millers and traders, must report their stockpiles to officials, according to a notice by the Department of Internal Trade.
Any party found attempting to push up the price of sticky rice or failing to report inventories will be fined 5,000 baht ($164) or face up to five years in jail, the ministry said. Those found selling rice at excessive prices will be fined 100,000 baht or face up to seven years in jail.
“Currently, the supply of sticky rice has dropped sharply because of drought and a late harvest period,” the Department of Internal Trade said in a statement. “That has caused the sharp increase in the price of the commodity.”
Thailand has been hit by the worst drought in decade, with the dry weather shriveling crops in the farming heartlands in the northeastern region. That helped exacerbate an economic slowdown, which led the central bank to cut the policy interest rate for the first time in more than four years. The government plans to start a $683 million program to help rice farmers by supporting incomes.
Thailand is one of the world’s biggest exporters of rice, and also one of the largest consumers of the grain, with about 3.7 million households depending on the commodity for their income. While they have the lowest income among farmers, they play an important role in the country’s political and social stability, according to the Rice Department.