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A maturing organic rice sector in Thailand, and other anti-pesticide measures

The growing use and weak regulation of pesticides and chemicals in Thailand has inspired government response to rein in usage and explore alternative farming models.

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"In the recent years, organic farming has received a boost from the Thai government. In 2009, the government allocated THB 923 million (USD 30.28 million) for 100 projects as part of the “National Organic Development Plan” (NODP) and five years Action Plan. Initially, organic farming was practiced for crops like rice and fresh vegetables but at present, research is being conducted to extend organic cultivation for crops such as tea, cooking herbs and fruits. NGOs such as Alternative Agriculture Network and its sister concern Sustainable Agriculture Foundation Thailand have been participating in the research and promotion of organic farming. The Thai Organic Trader Association, which manages almost 50% of the trade, was formed in 2005, clearly indicating an overall move towards a more organized organic farming sector.

Certain steps have been taken by the Thai government in order to reduce the high chemical content in the vegetable exports. Since December 2010 the Thai government has intensified the inspection standards of vegetable produce and the main focus was to adhere to the internationally accepted Global Maximum Residue Level (MRLs) for pesticides content. In August 2010, the government imposed restrictions on the number of pesticide products that can be produced by a manufacturer under one brand."

Implications

Despite these efforts, huge barriers remain for scaling organic farming.

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

However, there are certain impediments to the successful implementation of these steps. The restriction of the number of pesticides under one brand might not reduce the pesticides in the market, with companies using loopholes to sell their products. Organic farming is growing at a very slow pace. At present only around 1% of agriculture land is under organic cultivation. Pesticide intensive crops fetch high revenues so there will be reluctance amongst the farmers to switch to new ways of cultivation. Approximately 40% of the labor force in Thailand are engaged in cultivation, any drastic measure will reduce agriculture produce which might push these farmers in poverty.

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Sources:

The Strategic Foresight Group, July 2011 (pg. 18):
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_July2011.pdf#page=18

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Hee, Tan Siang. ‘Behind the Ban’. Business Report Thailand. 30 April 2011.
<http://www.businessreportthailand.com/thailand-eu-vegetable-ban-12654>

‘Do Farmers in Thailand use Pesticides?’ Washing Soda. 8 October 2010. <
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<http://thailand-business-news.com/economics/27656-thailand-organic-growth-potential