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Published: Tuesday February 11, 2014 MYT 1:20:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday February 11, 2014 MYT 1:22:09 PM

Thai govt says cannot renew rice scheme expiring end-Feb

An anti-government protester walks past a wire barricade during a rally near the Interior Ministry in Bangkok February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

An anti-government protester walks past a wire barricade during a rally near the Interior Ministry in Bangkok February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai government said on Tuesday it could not renew its controversial rice-buying scheme when it expires at the end of February because it has no authority to do so.

"We are just a caretaker government, which has no power to extend any policy. The rice-buying scheme will end automatically on February 28," Varathep Rattanakorn, a minister in the prime minister's office, told Reuters.

The scheme introduced by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in 2011 pays farmers way above the market price for their rice, but that has made the grain uncompetitive on world markets. The government has found it difficult to sell and the programme has run into funding problems, leaving many farmers waiting months for payment.

(Reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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