Thailand: Food security key concern
Amid debates about Thailand losing its status as the world's leading rice exporter, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) is more concerned about food security as new generations do not want to be farmers.
Ladawan Kumpa, deputy secretary-general of the think-tank, said Thailand should focus more on high-quality rice such as organic that commands a higher price in the global market.
Thai rice is less competitive than Vietnamese rice because of the government's pledging programme, she said. Myanmar used to be a global leader in rice exports before the junta shuttered the country's resources, but it could again become a fierce competitor as it opens up, she added.
The Pheu Thai-led government feels compelled to carry on with rice pledging because it was a campaign pledge, though it has been slammed by critics for being a gaping failure for everyone involved.
''But this does not mean we do not worry about the decreasing export figures, as the country needs to ship 10 million tonnes of rice,'' said Ms Ladawan.
''Clearly we cannot compete on cost with Vietnam and Myanmar, so why not let Vietnam export cheap rice and Thailand compete on high-quality rice?''
As part of the NESDB's 11th development plan, which runs between this year and 2016, it set a target to expand organic farmland by 5% per year.
This is the first NESDB plan that addresses food security and energy security, stressing the need to increase public access to food as prices keep rising. The ''green movement'' aims to create greater sustainability in the agriculture sector by taking into account environmental, social, and land ownership concerns.
''Clearly Thai agriculture is disadvantaged in terms of productivity. The NESDB alone can't change matters, so we need related agencies to help,'' she said at a seminar on sustainable development hosted by the Thailand Environment Institute last week.
She added it has become clear Thais below 50 do not want to be farmers. This generation is better educated than their parents and can earn more doing other jobs. ''We want to create incentives for farming even as part-time work. Organic farming is another programme we have promoted,'' she noted.
Source: Bangkok Post
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