Thailand has three types of climate; a savannah-type climate in the Northeast, North, and Central regions, a tropical monsoon climate in the Central and upper Southern regions, and a tropical rainforest climate in the lower Southern region. Once a predominantly agricultural country, the contribution of agriculture to the national economy has dropped from 25% to less than 10% in the last 20 years. Similarly, agricultural exports have fallen from a dominant role in bringing foreign income into the country. Despite these declines, agriculture production is still expanding and over 60% of the population, 5.1 million families, are still employed in the agricultural sector. The main feature of Thai agriculture has always been small-scale farmers. The average landholding is 4.0 ha per family.
Rice is the main staple crop, and its production occupies more than half of all farmland. Rice surplus beyond domestic consumption is exported and represents one-third of the agricultural export value. Fishery exports, both from wild catching and aquaculture, especially shrimp, have been the number one export activity. The second most important export commodity is rubber.
Thailand’s organic sector has probably passed early infancy and has entered the growth stage. Most organic productions systems are simple, without the use of sophisticated farming technologies or machinery. Most organic products are basic unprocessed commodities such as rice, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Increasingly, more intermediate processed products are being developed, such as sugar, tapioca starch, and palm oil. There are few finished processed organic products, as the raw material is usually insufficient to supply processing plants, and the supply often is not continuous. Also, the importers prefer to buy organic raw materials from Thailand and do the processing in their own countries in order to ensure high quality and lower import taxes.
Green Net and the Earth Net Foundation estimate that the area under organic farming increased to 21,701 ha in 2005, representing 0.1% of the total agricultural land. The number of farms also increased; 7,186 organic farms represent 0.14% of the total number of farms.
(Author: Vitoon Panyakul)
Further Reading about the Early Organic Sector in Thailand:
Case Study Overview
Regulatory Framework and Policy
Organization, Structure, Lessons Learned
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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