A university in Thailand has a few ideas about how to balance education needs with the country’s grain surplus: it’s allowing students to cover their school fees with rice.
Bloomberg reports that Bangkok’s Rangsit University, a private institution, has begun accepting grain as payment, offering above-market rates to an initial 19 students.
Millions of Thai farmers are struggling to make ends meet because rice prices have plummeted due to domestic oversupply and crowded export markets. According to Bloomberg, some farmers have resorted to trying to sell rice on Facebook or at roadside stalls.
Witsanu Sukmoonsiri, a 22-year-old student of social innovation, told Bloomberg that his family “might have had to go to a loan shark” were it not for the new rice-for-fees initiative. It is unclear what will happen to the rice collected by the university.
Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second largest economy with a population of some 67 million people, and it is one of the world’s biggest rice exporters. About half of the country’s output is sold abroad, Bloomberg reports.
Agriculture accounts for about 8% of the country’s economy, according to Bloomberg, and about a quarter of its citizens are rice farmers. Despite the current stockpile of about 8 million metric tons, production is set to increase over the next year.
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Thailand’s military junta seized power in a 2014 coup, ousting an elected government that was typically supported by farmers in the country’s north. The junta has reportedly committed some $2.2 billion in subsidies to appease farmers amid the current hardships and in advance of elections slated for next year.