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 Home > About Thailand > Agriculture

AGRICULTURE


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Introduction
Agriculture (crop cultivation. livestock. fishery. and forestry) has long been an important sector of the Thai economy despite the rapid growth of other sectors in recent years. In 1988. agriculture contributed about 17 per cent of the GNP and 34 per cent of all exports. while providing full of part-time employment for more than half of the country's labor force. Of the total land area of 51 million hectares, 21.6 million hectares are used for agricultural purposes and employ a labor force of about 17 million.

Today agricultural products account for the bulk of Thailand's foreign exchange earnings and are produced in such large quantities that the country ranks as the world's number one supplier in many commodities. Agriculture has also provided the springboard for the rapid development of Argo- Processing industries. with their favorable bias towards labor-intensive production and foreign exchange earnings.

Thailand's agriculture growth rate during the past decade has been quite impressive--an average rate of four per cent a year. This high growth rate has been achieved largely through expansion of the cultivated land. Government policies also stimulate an increase in agricultural production and change in its composition by promoting new production technologies, effecting favorable changes in production input and price control, and providing such infrastructure as irrigation and credit facilities. Another important policy has been to distribute crop production throughout the country.

The four most important food crops in terms of the planted area and the value of production are rice, maize, sugarcane, and cassava. The first three are important domestic food commodities as well as foreign currency earners, while the fourth is predominantly an export crop. Other major upland crops are mungbean and soybean in the northern region and kenaf in the northeastern region. Mungbean and soybean accounted for nearly half a million hectares and 0.23 million hectares of the total cultivated land, respectively. Other agricultural crops are grown in the southern region, where the most important crop is rubber. At present, Thailand is becoming a major producer of tropical fruits (e.g.,pineapple and longan) and horticultural crops (e.g., orchids) for export.

Thailand is among the world's top ten fishing nations, in terms of total catch and exports. Major export earners are squid and cuttlefish. The country is also among the world's largest producers of frozen shrimp. Agriculture which includes fish and shrimp farming and breeding is being vigorously promoted by the government to serve rapidly expanding domestic and overseas markets.


Land


The fertile and well watered plains of Thailand have blessed the people with more than enough rice, maize, and other crops, establishing Thailand as the "rice-bowl" of Southeast Asia. The country has approximately 51 million hectares of land, which can be broken down into 17,17,10, and 7 million hectares for the north, the northeast, the central part, and the south, respectively. About 21.8 million hectares are reserved as the national reserved forests. The cultivated area represented about 20.8 million hectares, of which 11.9 million hectares are used for growing rice, 6.7 million hectares for upland crops, and 2.2 million hectares for perennial crops.


Livestock


Livestock is the second most important subsector within the agriculture economy in terms of value added. Livestock production is closely related to the crop production system and is characterized by joint products and services.

During the last decade, commercial pig raising farms have gradually been developed in provinces around Bangkok, using intensive fattening methods with high quality swine and catering to more discerning markets. Thailand exports live hogs and fresh frozen pork, mostly to Hong Kong and Japan.

Among the sub sectors within the livestock sector, the broiler industry has become the most important in terms of export earnings. Chicken production has been on the increase, too. In 1989, Thailand exported 110,567 tons of frozen chicken, 18.4 per cent more than expected, mostly to Japan. New finished or semi-finished chicken products such as chicken balls and sausages, are also helping to boost Thai exports.


Fishery

Fish has long been the main staple food providing dietary protein for Thai people. Based on geographical differences, fishing communities in Thailand can be grouped into two categories, namely freshwater and marine.
The Gulf of Thailand is highly productive due to the heavy nutrient load of four major rivers and hundreds of small rivers and streams which drain a catchment area inhabited by nearly 50 million people. Moreover, Thailand is near the vast marine resources of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, enabling it to operate one of the largest fish canning industries in the world. Technologically, the Thai processing industry is among the world's best, both public and private sectors realizing at an early stage that product quality is a foremost consideration in any export market. In 1989, exports of tuna topped nearly fourteen billion baht, a seven-fold increase over 1984's output, importers being the U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada, Holland, Malaysia, and Finland. Thai tunas reputation for quality, an established and up-to-date canning component, and highly skilled but cost-competitive workforce should be able to maintain this impressive performance for some time to come.

Although dwarfed by tunas huge export figures, other canned seafood products are also clam, for example, though they will never match tuna in volume, are significant and growing in terms of value. In 1989, canned shrimp earned more than two and half billion baht in foreign exchange; about 68,505 tons of frozen shrimp was also exported, value at 15,402 million bath.


Forestry

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In 1961, 53 per cent of the country was still covered with forest, a proportion which declined dramatically to the 1988 figure of 28 per cent. The value of Thailand's forest exports dropped from 354 million baht in 1978 to 104 million baht in 1984. To counter these threats, in 1989 the Royal Thai Government stepped up enforcement of existing laws and abolished the quota logging systems for the entire country. The Ministry of Agriculture has set a largest of 40 per cent forest to be reached through reforestation programs in the next decade.



Summary


In recent years, the Thai economy has grown rapidly, a phenomenon in which the agricultural sector has played a crucial role. Nearly half the country's total area is used for agricultural production, and the export value of these products has risen steadily.
Although Thailand will become a newly industrialized country in the next decade, agriculture will remain a significant factor in maintaining and stabilizing economic growth. Equally important, it also serves as the input base for Argo-processing and related industries. Thailand will continue to encounter structural change in world demand for its major traditional agricultural products, due to various developments ranging from technology to changing tastes. Consequently, diversification of agricultural products, improved production technology, research, and marketing strategy will be emphasized and implemented by both the government and the private sector in order to achieve the country's development goals.

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