CROPS IN THAILAND: SUGAR CANE, TAPIOCA, RUBBER, EXPORTS, FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

CROPS IN THAILAND

Major crops: rice, cassava (manioc, tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans. Major crops for domestic consumption: rice, maize, yams, chilies, cassava, eggplant and beans. Major crops for export: rice, sugar cane, tobacco, rubber, coconuts, jute, pineapples. Maize, soybeans, green beans, palm oil and cotton.

Climatic and soil conditions permit the cultivation of a wide range of crops, not only tropical varieties but also many originating in semitropical and temperate zones. Until the late 1950s, however, the major emphasis in agriculture was on rice and, secondarily, on rubber, which together accounted for over half the value of all commodity exports. Other crops regularly grown included maize, cassava, potatoes, yams, beans, sugarcane, fruit, cotton, and various oilseeds, but all were supplementary and intended basically for domestic use. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987 *]

Historically, Thailand's independent status had kept it from being saddled with a colonial plantation economy, in which two or three principal crops were produced for world markets or for the imperial power. Agricultural production, however, had been strongly influenced by the West after the Bowring Treaty of 1855 with Britain, which resulted in crop diversification. Accordingly, when new market conditions-- increased world demand, higher prices, and developing domestic industry--arose during the 1960s and 1970s, Thailand's independent small farmers responded by expanding substantially the output of many secondary crops. *

The flexibility of the Thai farmer was evidenced by an unprecedented shift from rice production to other crops by a considerable number of households. In other cases, many farmers continued to produce rice for subsistence purposes while expanding their activities to grow market-oriented upland crops. In the mid-1980s, major export crops included not only rice and rubber but also maize, cassava, sugarcane, mung beans, tobacco, and sorghum. Other important crops in which major production increases also had been made were pineapples, peanuts, cashew nuts, soybeans, bananas, sesame, coconuts, cotton, kapok, and castor beans.*

Thailand is a major exporter of cut flowers. For a while it was one of the top five producers of vanilla but no longer is.

See Separate Article on Rice

Thai Vegetables and Fruits for Export

In the 1990s, 60 percent of Thailand’s exports were agricultural products. At that time Thailand was that world‘s leading exporter of rice (followed by the U.S. And Vietnam), No. 2 in tapioca (behind Brazil) and fifth in coconuts. Today the percentage of Thailand’s exports that are agricultural products is smaller and it is the No. 3 rice export in world nevertheless agricultural products remain important export items and earners of foreign exchange.

According to the Thai government: In exporting agricultural produce, the exporters of vegetables and fruits must obtain a certificate from the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives guaranteeing that it is chemical-free. The officers of the Department of Agriculture must make a random sample check of the produce before such a certificate can be issued. The amount of sampling depends on the amount of pesticides expected to contaminate the vegetables and fruits. Nevertheless, the vegetables and fruits are likely to undergo another random sample check at the destination country even after the export has been cleared of the chemical contamination at home; this practice varies with the conditions, stringent or otherwise, set by each country. [Source: Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department =]

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture issued a directive ordering certain categories of vegetable and fruit exports (whether refrigerated, frozen, or dried, and whether whole, peeled, or sliced, depending on the type of vegetable and fruit) to be subject first to inspection for chemicals by the department even if the importing country does not clearly specify the necessity for producing such a certificate in the first place, in order to ensure that all vegetable and fruit exports to various countries do not run into any trouble. =

Twelve kinds of vegetables and fruits to be sent to the European Union and six other countries— Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Malaysia, and the United States: green okra, ginger (tender and mature), baby corn, chili (including dried chilies and cayenne pepper), asparagus, longan, durian, litchi, mangosteen, mango, tamarind (sweet, sour, and young), and pomelo. Twenty-one kinds of vegetables for export to Japan: kale, phak khayaeng, Asiatic pennywort, phak phraeo, cha-om (acacia), kaffir lime leaves, okra, coriander, fennel, holy basil, sweet basil, lemongrass, mint, parsley, khuenchai, hairy basil, sessile joyweed, Holland bean, cabbage, phak chilao, and water mimosa =

Other agricultural products exported from Thailand include: Frozen vegetables and fruits, such as asparagus, pineapple, mangosteen, pigeon peas, potatoes and baby corn; canned vegetables and fruits, such as various beans, asparagus, and sweet corn, as well as pineapple-stuffed rambutan, litchi, longan, guava, and various kinds of fruits in syrup; processed vegetables and fruits, such as dried, preserved, and crystallized or candied; and pickled vegetables, such as ginger, cucumber, Chinese-style vegetable pickle, eggplant, and bamboo shoots. =

In addition to the standardization and quality measures for the agricultural produce of Thailand, as executed by the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, a consortium is entrusted with the job of regulating and strengthening the export position of Thailand. Composed of the Department of Internal Trade under the Ministry of Commerce, plus other government and private sector agencies, the agencies join hands in setting up the Perishable One Stop Service Export Center of Thailand (POSSEC Thailand). The center aims to find the best options for exporting vegetables and fruits, whose volumes have considerably expanded as a result of free trade agreements, such as the one between Thailand and China, and dealings with other major markets, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, the USA, and the European Union. The center provides a one-stop service, which helps to keep transport costs down by as much as 20 percent for operators. The cost-efficient measure in turn makes Thai produce more competitive in overseas markets. The new center is now open for 24-hour service at Thai Market in Pathum Thani province, and has the capacity to handle 1,000 tons of vegetables and fruit a day. =

Maize (Corn), Cassava (Tapioca) and Spices in Thailand

In the 1990s Thailand was one of the tops exporters of maize (corn) now it is ranked about 19th. The worlds top exporters of corn are (1991): 1) the U.S., 2) China, 3) Argentina, 4) France, 5) Hungary, 6) Canada, 7) Thailand, 8) Greece, 9) Yugoslavia, 10) Belgium/Luxembourg.

Maize was believed to have been introduced by Spanish or Portuguese traders in the sixteenth century. Export interest and profitability led to increased maize cultivation after World War II and the introduction of the so-called Guatemala strain in 1951. Output rose rapidly thereafter to almost 600,000 tons in 1961, over 1 million tons in 1965, and 2.3 million tons in 1971. A record 5 million tons were produced in 1985. Fertilizer use was limited, however, and there was concern that yields would gradually decline. The grain was grown throughout Thailand, but the uplands around the central plain were especially suitable. Weather conditions usually permitted commercial growers to produce two crops a year. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987*]

Cassava, a root crop from which tapioca is made, was introduced in about 1935. The tubers may also be boiled and eaten as a vegetable or ground into flour. An important food in many tropical subsistence economies, cassava had never been significant in Thailand in the past because of the abundance of rice. Cassava developed into an important export item in the 1950s, and production continued through the 1970s and 1980s as external demand increased. Thai output of cassava root in 1984 was more than 19 million tons, second only to Brazil in world production. The main growing areas were Chon Buri and Rayong provinces, southeast of Bangkok, but substantial quantities were also grown in parts of the Northeast. In 1986 Thailand signed a 4-year tapioca trade agreement with the EEC calling for export of 21 million tons of tapioca during the 1987-91 period. *

Forests have been cleared by impoverished farmers to grow cassava, used to make tapioca exported to the Netherlands to be fed to pigs. The area of cassava cultivation increased from 100,000 hectares on the 1966 to 1 million hectares in the 1980s. Thailand’s relatition with the Netherlands was seen as a clear example of an industrialized country receiving benefits of tropical forest destruction in a tropical country.

Cassava: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Nigeria, 3212578 , 44582000; 2) Thailand, 1812726 , 25155797; 3) Indonesia, 1524288 , 21593052; 4) Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1071053 , 15013490; 5) Brazil, 962110 , 26703039; 6) Ghana, 817960 , 11351100; 7) Angola, 724734 , 10057375; 8) Viet Nam, 677061 , 9395800; 9) India, 652575 , 9056000; 10) United Republic of Tanzania, 439566 , 6600000; 11) Uganda, 365488 , 5072000; 12) Mozambique, 363083 , 5038623; 13) China, 286191 , 4411573; 14) Cambodia, 264909 , 3676232; 15) Malawi, 251574 , 3491183; 16) Côte d'Ivoire, 212660 , 2951160; 17) Benin, 189465 , 2629280; 18) Madagascar, 172944 , 2400000; 19) Cameroon, 162135 , 2500000; 20) Philippines, 134361 , 1941580.

Chilies and Peppers dry: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) India, 3771670 , 1269850; 2) China, 748482 , 252000; 3) Peru, 490078 , 165000; 4) Thailand, 479697 , 161505; 5) Pakistan, 386122 , 130000; 6) Bangladesh, 349782 , 117765; 7) Ethiopia, 341569 , 115000; 8) Ghana, 240583 , 81000; 9) Viet Nam, 233158 , 78500; 10) Myanmar, 210882 , 71000; 11) Mexico, 178210 , 60000; 12) Nigeria, 148508 , 50000; 13) Egypt, 135439 , 45600; 14) Democratic Republic of the Congo, 100985 , 34000; 15) Romania, 98015 , 33000; 16) Bosnia and Herzegovina, 89105 , 30000; 17) Côte d'Ivoire, 59403 , 20000; 17) Turkey, 59403 , 20000; 19) Nepal, 48597 , 16362; 20) Benin, 44552 , 15000.

Ginger: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) India, 217856 , 382600; 2) China, 187227 , 328810; 3) Indonesia, 109520 , 192341; 4) Nepal, 100558 , 176602; 5) Thailand, 91962 , 161505; 6) Nigeria, 79717 , 140000; 7) Bangladesh, 43870 , 77046; 8) Japan, 28356 , 49800; 9) Philippines, 15680 , 27538; 10) Cameroon, 6263 , 11000; 11) Malaysia, 5887 , 10340; 12) Sri Lanka, 5722 , 10050; 13) Bhutan, 5620 , 9870; 14) Ethiopia, 5124 , 9000; 15) Côte d'Ivoire, 4669 , 8200; 16) Republic of Korea, 2027 , 3560; 17iji, 1393 , 2448; 18) Costa Rica, 543 , 955; 19) United States of America, 464 , 816; 20) Mauritius, 403 , 709.

Vegetable and Fruit

Agriculture in Thailand

Kenaf, a coarse fiber similar to jute but of somewhat lesser quality, is native to the country and has long been grown for local use in making sacks, cord, and twine. Commercial cultivation began in the Northeast in the 1950s, and production was largely concentrated in the central and eastern parts of the region in 1980. World shortages created by the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 temporarily stimulated Thai production of jute, as did shortages resulting from the 1971 civil war in Pakistan. The recovery of jute cultivation in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) and broad swings in producer prices led many Thai farmers in the late 1970s to replace kenaf with cassava, which commanded a higher return. The 1984 kenaf crop was estimated at about 200,000 tons, compared with an average annual output of over 400,000 tons in the previous decade. Increased world demand, however, was expected to encourage a revival in planting. [Library of Congress, *]

Thailand is one of the world’s largest pineapple exporters. Prachuab Khirikhan Province is famous for its sweet pineapples. One company there makes large profits from making paper from its waste products. Pineapples, exported chiefly as canned fruit and juice, were initially grown solely as a supplementary crop for local use until the first pineapple cannery was opened in 1967. A shortage of fruit led several canneries to establish large pineapple plantations (ranging up to more than 3,000 hectares--in sharp contrast to the smallholding character of most Thai agriculture), which supplied about 40 percent of cannery needs in the late 1970s. The industry grew dramatically, and by the early 1980s Thailand was one of the world's largest exporters of pineapples, producing about 1.6 million tons in 1984. *

Longan, a fruit, are similar to a small litchi, has a sweet, succulent flesh. It is grown primarily in the nroth. Over the years culitavation was increased to meet demand from China for the fruit and the fruit became a source of income for farmers in the north. Between the 1980s and 2000s production increased 10-fold from 45,773 tons in 1983 to 702, 487 tones in 2004. By that time over production had become a problem and prices of the fruit crashed, promptingThailand’s agriculture ministry to encourage Thais to eat more of the fruit to boost prices and keep farmers from going broke. This was done after a price stablization was abused by middlemen who bough up logans at low prices and sold it the state for higher guranteed prices.

Soybeans: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) United States of America, 16807533 , 80748700; 2) Brazil, 12360728 , 59242480; 3) Argentina, 9858712 , 46238087; 4) China, 2791841 , 15545141; 5) India, 2032695 , 9905000; 6) Paraguay, 1308722 , 6311794; 7) Canada, 598918 , 3335900; 8) Bolivia (Plurinational State of), 245792 , 1259676; 9) Uruguay, 180412 , 880000; 10) Indonesia, 159166 , 776491; 11) Russian Federation, 151649 , 745990; 12) Ukraine, 125847 , 812800; 13) Nigeria, 111548 , 591000; 14) Serbia, 73030 , 350946; 15) Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 69942 , 345000; 16) South Africa, 57588 , 282000; 17) Viet Nam, 57410 , 268600; 18) Italy, 57358 , 346245; 19) Iran (Islamic Republic of), 41695 , 197246; 20) Thailand, 39846 , 186598.

Bananas: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) India, 3736184 , 26217000; 2) China, 1146165 , 8042702; 3) Philippines, 1114265 , 8687624; 4) Brazil, 997306 , 6998150; 5) Ecuador, 954980 , 6701146; 6) Indonesia, 818200 , 5741352; 7) United Republic of Tanzania, 498785 , 3500000; 8) Mexico, 307718 , 2159280; 9) Costa Rica, 295993 , 2127000; 10) Colombia, 283253 , 1987603; 11) Burundi, 263643 , 1850000; 12) Thailand, 219533 , 1540476; 13) Guatemala, 216538 , 1569460; 14) Viet Nam, 193101 , 1355000; 15) Egypt, 151410 , 1062453; 16) Bangladesh, 124998 , 877123; 17) Papua New Guinea, 120563 , 940000; 18) Cameroon, 116858 , 820000; 19) Uganda, 87643 , 615000; 20) Malaysia, 85506 , 600000.

Watermelons: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) China, 6657110 , 67203275; 2) Turkey, 291925 , 4002285; 3) Iran (Islamic Republic of), 267625 , 2566660; 4) Brazil, 208040 , 1995206; 5) United States of America, 177238 , 1814500; 6) Egypt, 154938 , 1485939; 7) Mexico, 125093 , 1199711; 8) Republic of Korea, 89333 , 856755; 9) Algeria, 88069 , 844631; 10) Spain, 71395 , 721800; 11) Morocco, 67848 , 650700; 12) Greece, 66211 , 660000; 13) Russian Federation, 61253 , 1382450; 14) Kazakhstan, 60893 , 653910; 15) Uzbekistan, 47980 , 981200; 16) Iraq, 47517 , 455712; 17) Thailand, 45044 , 432000; 18) Viet Nam, 43793 , 420000; 19) Pakistan, 42958 , 411996; 20) Azerbaijan, 42262 , 407716.

Sugar Agriculture in Thailand

In the early 2000s, Thailand was the world’s second largest exporter of sugar, accounting for about 5 percent of world production and 10 percent of world exports. It produced 64.5 million tons and exported more than 5 million tons in 2003 .Production was down in 2004 because a drought. Production was down even more in 2005 because a drought followed by flooding

Sugarcane has long been widely grown. Some commercialization was reported by the mid-nineteenth century, but the crop became of major importance only after World War II. In the early 1950s, production averaged 1.6 million tons annually, and in the late 1950s self-sufficiency in sugar was attained. In 1960 Thailand became a net exporter of sugar. Rising world prices led Thailand's market-responsive farmers to expand cropped areas in the 1970s. In 1976 sugarcane production reached a record 26.1 million tons, and sugar output totaled 2.2 million tons, the latter amount being considerably in excess of international and domestic demands. Drought in 1977 greatly reduced output and seriously affected many small growers. Declining world prices after 1975, drought, and lower producer prices in 1978 led many farmers to shift to alternate crops. In 1986 about 24 million tons of sugarcane were produced. [Library of Congress, 1987*]

Productivity was low compared with other major sugarcane-growing countries (about fifty-three tons of sugarcane per hectare against Taiwan's seventy tons and Indonesia's eighty tons in the mid-1970s). Introduction of new varieties and improved cultivation and cropping practices were needed to raise output levels. The principal sugarcane-growing areas were in and around Kanchanaburi Province and in Chon Buri Province in the Center. Sugarcane was also grown in the Northeast and in the North around Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Uttaradit. [Library of Congress]

Top Producing Countries of Sugar Cane: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Brazil, 13299034 , 645300182; 2) India, 6725632 , 348187900; 3) China, 2482336 , 124917502; 4) Thailand, 1526628 , 73501610; 5) Pakistan, 1194856 , 63920000; 6) Mexico, 1061490 , 51106900; 7) Colombia, 738608 , 38500000; 8) Australia, 677540 , 32621113; 9) Argentina, 622061 , 29950000; 10) Indonesia, 540020 , 26000000; 11) Guatemala, 526867 , 25436764; 12) Philippines, 509432 , 26601400; 13) United States of America, 486267 , 25041020; 14) South Africa, 425785 , 20500000; 15) Viet Nam, 331293 , 16128000; 16) Egypt, 311224 , 16469947; 17) Cuba, 217191 , 15700000; 18) Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), 196238 , 9448162; 19) Peru, 195154 , 9395959; 20) Ecuador, 190483 , 9341095.

The worlds top producers of sugar in 1988 were: 1) EC-12, 2) India, 3) USSR, 4) Cuba, 5) Brazil, 6) the U.S. 7) China, 8) Mexico, 9) Australia, 10) Thailand. The worlds top exporters of sugar were in 1988: 1) Cuba, 2) EC-12, 3) Australia, 4) Thailand, 5) Brazil, 6) Mexico, 7) South Africa, 8) Mauritius, 9) Dominican Republic, 10) Fiji.

In 2006, there was a severe sugar shortage. Bloomberg reported: “Thailand is threatening to imprison people who hoard or smuggle sugar, as a worsening domestic shortage causes supermarkets to ration supplies and more Thais go without dessert.The Thai authorities are hunting for people who stockpile sugar in expectation that state-fixed prices will soar. They also are looking for illegal exporters crossing borders to sell stocks reserved for the domestic market for nearly twice as much as they could get at home.The sugar shortage has caused Bangkok supermarkets to limit the amount shoppers can buy to two bags per household.” [Source: Beth Jinks and Anuchit Nguyen, Bloomberg, January, 9 2006]

Thai Press Reports reported: “Sugar Cane Farmer Association has demanded the government to withdraw sugar cane from the list of controlled commodity of Commerce Ministry within January. Otherwise, members of the organization will not supply the product to markets. The Secretary General of Sugar Cane Farmer Association Kamthorn Kittichotisap request the ministry to help cooperate with Commerce Ministry to remove sugar cane out of controlled list commodity. He said that the current price of sugar is set at 16-18 baht per kilogram. However, the farmers still get 11 baht per kilogram to set off the difference. The demand of the commodity is at 22,000,000 tons, a huge difference from supply. The farmers can produce 45,000,000 sacks of sugar and export about 23,000,000 sacks. [Source: Thai Press Reports, January 17, 2006]

Coconut Agriculture in Thailand

Coconuts have long been a staple crop in Thailand. More than a billion coconuts are produced in Thailand every year. Coconut oil mixed with kerosene has been used as automobile fuel. The idea was proposed by a coconut farmers as a solution for the problem of declining demand for coconut oil caused by health concerns. A village teacher and coconut farmer developed an engine that ran on coconut oil and used oil used by street vendors to fry donuts mixed with a small amount of kerosene to give it a “kick.” The engines have been used at shrimp farms and on ocean-going fishing boats used around Koh Samui.

Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Indonesia, 1763580 , 19500000; 2) Philippines, 1367481 , 15319500; 3) India, 985253 , 10894000; 4) Brazil, 249527 , 2759044; 5) Sri Lanka, 199944 , 2210800; 6) Thailand, 134206 , 1483927; 7) Mexico, 112724 , 1246400; 8) Viet Nam, 98217 , 1086000; 9) Papua New Guinea, 61227 , 677000; 10) Malaysia, 41187 , 455408; 11) Myanmar, 33462 , 370000; 11) United Republic of Tanzania, 33462 , 370000; 13) Ghana, 28579 , 316000; 14) Vanuatu, 27828 , 307700; 15) China, 26943 , 297911; 16) Solomon Islands, 24961 , 276000; 17) Jamaica, 24020 , 265600; 18) Mozambique, 23966 , 265000; 19) Nigeria, 21162 , 234000; 20) Samoa, 14018 , 155000.

Rubber in Thailand

Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are the world’s largest rubber producers. In the mid 2000s Thailand was the world’s largest rubber exporter. It produced 69,000 tons and supplied 38 percent of the world’s rubber in 2004. Much of the Thailand’s rubber production is bought by China and tire makers. In 2004, Thailand exported 1.5 million tons of rubber, worth $2.5 billion, to China. In 2005 sheets of ribbed smoked rubber rose 57 percent to $1.73 a kilogram on the back of continued strong demand from China.

Rubber is an important crop in southern Thailand . The landscape there is dominated by rubber plantations and rice paddies. Many people make their living as rubber tappers. Thailand’s three southern provinces account for about 15 percent of Thailand’s rubber production. During the 2000s production in the region dropped 10 percent because of violence connected to the Muslim insurgency there. The violence has chocked production and caused global rubber prices to rise.

The 50-member Thai Rubber Association controls 80 percent of Thailand’s rubber trade. At one time more than 80 percent of Thailand’s rubber changed hands through direct negotiations between wholesaler and buyers such as the tiremaker Goodyear and Bridgestone. The Tokyo Commodities Exchange is the world’s largest futures market for rubber. Rubber was selling for around $2.00 a kilogram in 2005. Poor harvests in Thailand and increased demand from China drove prices up that year.

The tire industry—dominated by Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear— is the biggest consumer of rubber. High prices for butadiebce, an oil product used to make synthetic rubber, has caused tire maker to turn to natural rubber to make tires. Higher oil and rubber prices have caused tire companies to raise their prices.

In 1901 British planters introduced rubber trees into the Malay Peninsula, where the soils and climatic conditions were highly suited to rubber cultivation. In Thailand early government restrictions on foreign investment led to development of the industry by local smallholders, usually subsistence rice farmers who were able to start rubber tree stands on the relatively abundant free land in the area. Land under rubber cultivation expanded rapidly in the 1930s, consisting mainly of smallholdings controlled by Chinese, Thai, and Thai Malays rather than large, European-owned plantations, as in other Asian countries. Thailand had about 1.6 million hectares in rubber in the mid-1970s, of which about 10 percent were located in an area along the Gulf of Thailand southeast of Bangkok. Of the 500,000 holdings in the early 1980s, about 150,000 were under 2.5 hectares in size, and another 300,000 were under 10 hectares. The remaining larger holdings were operated more as expanded smallholdings than as plantations. Production was increasing in the early 1980s and had reached about 830,000 tons in 1987. An extensive replanting program, in which old tree stock was replaced with new high-yield varieties, had reportedly been carried out in about half the planted area by the mid-1980s, significantly increasing the potential for expanded production. [Source: Library of Congress]

Top Rubber Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Thailand, 1698667 , 3166910; 2) Indonesia, 1567233 , 2921872; 3) Malaysia, 575213 , 1072400; 4) India, 439295 , 819000; 5) Viet Nam, 353796 , 659600; 6) China, 293861 , 547861; 7) Philippines, 220475 , 411044; 8) Côte d'Ivoire, 101124 , 188532; 9) Nigeria, 76702 , 143000; 10) Sri Lanka, 69321 , 129240; 11) Brazil, 64851 , 120905; 12) Liberia, 43446 , 81000; 13) Guatemala, 37546 , 70000; 14) Cameroon, 27891 , 52000; 15) Myanmar, 24137 , 45000; 16) Cambodia, 16990 , 31676; 17) Mexico, 14862 , 27709; 18) Guinea, 7455 , 13900; 19) Ecuador, 7375 , 13750; 20) Ghana, 7241 , 13500.

The worlds top exporters of rubber in 1988 were: 1) Malaysia, 2) Indonesia, 3) Thailand, 4) the U.S., 5) France, 6) W. Germany, 7) Japan, 8) the Netherlands, 9) U.S.S.R. and 10) the UK. The worlds top producers of rubber in 1988 were: 1) USSR, 2) the U.S., 3) Malaysia, 4) Japan, 5) Indonesia, 6) Thailand, 7) France, 8) W. Germany, 9) the UK, 10) Brazil.

In September 2013, Associated Press reported: “More than 12,000 rubber farmers protested and blocked roads in Thailand's south to demand that the government boost declining rubber prices, police said. Farmers from several provinces in the south, where most of Thailand's rubber plantations are located, were blocking a main highway near an agricultural cooperative office in Surat Thani province, 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of Bangkok, police Maj. Gen. Kiattipong Khaosam-ang said. [Source: Associated Press, September 3, 2013]

Palm Oil in Thailand

Palm Oil: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Malaysia, 5369279 , 17734441; 2) Indonesia, 5116644 , 16900000; 3) Nigeria, 402670 , 1330000; 4) Thailand, 393588 , 1300000; 5) Colombia, 235486 , 777800; 6) Papua New Guinea, 115654 , 382000; 7) Ecuador, 93552 , 309000; 8) Côte d'Ivoire, 87800 , 290000; 9) Honduras, 82774 , 273400; 10) China, 68121 , 225000; 11) Brazil, 66607 , 220000; 12) Costa Rica, 58802 , 194220; 13) Cameroon, 56010 , 185000; 13) Guatemala, 56010 , 185000; 15) Democratic Republic of the Congo, 55102 , 182000; 16) Ghana, 38753 , 128000; 17) Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), 27066 , 89400; 18) Philippines, 24826 , 82000; 19) Mexico, 18771 , 62000; 20) Guinea, 15138 , 50000.

Ioannis Gatsiounis wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “Another threat to the coastal environment comes from expanding oil palm plantations. As palm oil prices soar and the industry anticipates growing demand for biodiesel, shrimp ponds are being converted to oil palm, which flourishes in the sandy soils near rivers and sea. "Fifteen years ago shrimp farmers were heroes in the village," said Suwan Kungkangamamee, who has been farming shrimp for 17 years. "But everyone sees it as a gamble now. In towns, talk is whether to get into palm. It’s steady and predictable."[Source: Ioannis Gatsiounis, International Herald Tribune, March 21, 2008 **]

“The Thai government is promoting biodiesel fuel and wants farmers take advantage of the oil palm boom. In October, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives agreed to lend money to farmers to plant 400,000 acres, or 161,000 hectares, with oil palm and the government’s five-year plan through 2012 calls for the conversion of an additional 200,000 acres a year for palm oil production. **

“In Trang Province, about 40,000 acres are planted with oil palm, bringing in annual revenue of 720 million baht, said Manit Wongsureerat, the plant manager with Trang Oil Palm, a local processing company. Conservationists say oil palm plantations contribute to global warming through deforestation, while irrigation and the use of herbicides and pesticides affect water flows and quality. But improving irrigation requires more money and so, Manit said, "it’s not being done." Yadfon’s director, Pisit Charnsnoh, says the challenge is to get farmers to see past short-term gains. "Once you have money, you think you have everything," he said. But water is the most valuable and most vulnerable long-term resource in the region, he said, adding, "I think water will become an even bigger problem in the very near future." **

Tobacco, Tea and Coffee in Thailand

Tobacco has traditionally been an important foreign exchange earner for Thailand and has long been grown by farmers for personal and local use. Virginia flue-cured tobacco had been produced commercially since the 1930s, but export began only in 1956. Some burley and oriental (Turkish) tobacco was also grown. United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia beginning in the mid-1960s opened new markets, and production of Virginia tobacco rose from 13,700 tons in 1967 to more than 50,000 tons in 1981. About half of the commercial tobacco was grown in the North and another quarter in the Northeast. Tobacco growers were licensed, and a large number operated under the aegis of the state-owned Thai Tobacco Monopoly. [Library of Congress]

Tobacco: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) China, 5171973 , 2836725; 2) Brazil, 1551665 , 851058; 3) India, 948074 , 520000; 4) United States of America, 662016 , 363103; 5) Argentina, 309947 , 170000; 6) Indonesia, 309342 , 169668; 7) Malawi, 292149 , 160238; 8) Italy, 200554 , 110000; 9) Pakistan, 196479 , 107765; 10) Turkey, 170294 , 93403; 11) Zimbabwe, 144034 , 79000; 12) Thailand, 127625 , 70000; 13) Mozambique, 117309 , 64342; 14) Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 114862 , 63000; 15) United Republic of Tanzania, 92619 , 50800; 16) Lao People's Democratic Republic, 90851 , 49830; 17) Zambia, 87514 , 48000; 18) Canada, 80221 , 44000; 19) Bulgaria, 76870 , 42162; 20) Poland, 75116 , 41200.

Production and export of coffee expanded rapidly after Thailand became a member of the International Coffee Organization in 1981. Exports of coffee beans, most of which were grown in the South, reached 20,600 tons in 1985. Coffee Green: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) Brazil, 2286655 , 2796927; 2) Viet Nam, 872663 , 1067400; 3) Colombia, 563037 , 688680; 4) Indonesia, 558342 , 682938; 5) Peru, 223831 , 273780; 6) Ethiopia, 223520 , 273400; 7) Mexico, 217321 , 265817; 8) India, 214200 , 262000; 9) Guatemala, 203256 , 248614; 10) Uganda, 173098 , 211726; 11) Honduras, 155448 , 190137; 12) Costa Rica, 87757 , 107341; 13) Philippines, 79653 , 97428; 14) El Salvador, 73417 , 89801; 15) Côte d'Ivoire, 65404 , 80000; 16) Papua New Guinea, 61644 , 75400; 17) Nicaragua, 59458 , 72727; 18) Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), 58864 , 72000; 19) Madagascar, 54776 , 67000; 20) Thailand, 41239 , 50442.

Tea: Top Producing Countries: (Production, $1000; Production, metric tons in 2008, FAO): 1) China, 1380615 , 1275384; 2) India, 871615 , 805180; 3) Kenya, 374331 , 345800; 4) Sri Lanka, 344995 , 318700; 5) Turkey, 214386 , 198046; 6) Viet Nam, 189331 , 174900; 7) Indonesia, 163297 , 150851; 8) Japan, 104462 , 96500; 9) Argentina, 82270 , 76000; 10) Thailand, 66636 , 61557; 11) Bangladesh, 63868 , 59000; 12) Malawi, 52112 , 48140; 13) Uganda, 46340 , 42808; 14) Iran (Islamic Republic of), 45842 , 42348; 15) United Republic of Tanzania, 37671 , 34800; 16) Myanmar, 28686 , 26500; 17) Zimbabwe, 24139 , 22300; 18) Rwanda, 21612 , 19965; 19) Mozambique, 18257 , 16866; 20) Nepal, 17493 , 16160.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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