Garlic growers in Mae Hong Son were encamped outside the city and blocked two roads in their protest to urge the government to buy garlic at a guaranteed price on Wednesday. The protesters gathered at city hall and moved to block a second road in Mae Sarieng district. Garlic farmers have encamped the Mae Hong Son city hall for the second day, and blocked one entrance to the city hall. … Nirat Chankaen, the chairman of the Mae Hong Son garlic grower network said that the blockage of the two roads and the protest at city hall was to urge the government to solve their garlic price problem. The protesters said that they would block the roads until the government approves buying dry garlic at a guaranteed price of 25 baht per kilogramme. Bangkok Post, 13 June 2008

Farmers in Thailand are like businessmen all over the world. When things are going well they like to keep the profits for their own private purposes. But when things start to go badly they want the state to step in and support them.

Thai farmers are flexing their new-found political muscle and taking to the streets with the “privatise the profits, socialise the losses” banner held high. And good luck to them.

There is no reason why rural producers, like other sectors of society, should not seek to maximise their share of state largesse. Some farmers may be sitting back raising ducks and reassuring themselves with the nostalgia of “sufficiency economy” but far more are, quite literally, voting with their feet and seeking to shore up their position in the free-market economy with a solid safety net of government subsidy when things go wrong.

Rice. Garlic. What next?