(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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.