Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India in the Andaman Sea to the southwest. The country is a constitutional monarchy, headed by King Rama IX, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who, having reigned since 1946, is the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history.
Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country in terms of total area, with an area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), and is the 20th-most-populous country, with around 64 million people. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is Thailand's political, commercial, industrial and cultural hub. (Wyatt, 2003)
Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995, and is presently a newly industrialized country and a major exporter. Developments in agriculture since the 1960s have supported Thailand's transition to an industrialized economy. As recently as 1980, agriculture represented 70% of employment. In 2008 agriculture, forestry, and fishing contributed only 8.4% percent to GDP and even in rural areas farm jobs represent only half of employment.
In 1985 Thailand officially designated 25% of the nation's land area for protected forests and 15% for timber production. Protected forests have been set aside for conservation and recreation, while production forests are available for the forestry industry. Between 1992 and 2001, exports of logs and sawn timber increased from 50,000 cubic meters to 2 million cubic meters per year. (Doner, 2009)
Agriculture was able to expand during the 1960s and 1970s as it had access to new land and unemployed labor. Between 1962 and 1983, the agricultural sector grew by 4.1% on average a year and in 1980 it employed over 70% of the working population. Yet, the state perceived developments in the agriculture sector as necessary for industrialization and exports were taxed in order to keep domestic prices low and raise revenue for state investment in other areas of the economy. As other sectors developed, laborers went in search of work in other sectors of the economy and agriculture was forced to become less labor intensive and more industrialized. This was possible as the industry was facilitated by state laws forcing banks to provide cheap credit to the agricultural sector and by providing its own credit through the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC). The state further invested in education, irrigation and rural roads. The result was that agriculture continued to grow at 2.2% between 1983 and 2007. (Doner, 2009)
Thailand is the world's leading exporter of rice and a major exporter of shrimp. Other crops include coconuts, corn, rubber, soybeans, sugarcane and tapioca. Thailand leads the world in producing and exporting rice, rubber, canned pineapple, and black tiger prawns. It leads the Asian region in exporting chicken meat export and several other commodities, and feeding more the four times its own population from. Thailand also seeks to expand its exports in livestock. (O'Reilly & McDonald, 1983)
Thailand is the world's second largest exporter of gypsum after Canada, even though government policy limits gypsum exports to prevent price cuts. In 2003 Thailand produced more than 40 types of minerals with an annual value of about U.S.$740 million. However, more than 80% of these minerals were consumed domestically. In September 2003, in order to encourage foreign investment in the mining industry, the government relaxed severe restrictions on mining by foreign companies and reduced mineral royalties payable to the state. (O'Reilly & McDonald, 1983)
Agriculture Strategies and Advancements:
Technical and economic globalization forces have continued to change agriculture to a food industry. Technologies used in small- and medium-sized food processing industries depend on types of product, ranging from simple or traditional ones such as drying, and fermenting, to modern high technology such as canning and UHT sterilization. For traditional food products, simple technologies are developed by replacing heavy or tedious work by machines. In some cases, equipment is used to save time as well as improving quality. For example, a motorized stirrer is used to replace manpower in heating fruit puree for fruit preserve making, a gas or electric dryer is used instead of solar drying of fruits. When many technologies are needed in a processing operation, the food industry will survey local and overseas equipment manufacturers, for equipment to meet their need. An example of this kind is dried noodle manufacturing. The industry starts at the household production level to supply fresh noodles to the everyday market. When noodles have export potential, dried noodles are then made by adding a drying step to the production line. To increase the production scale, items of equipment are selected and installed in the processing line. Occasionally, the equipment selection does not turn out right, and then the industry suffers throughout the life time of the equipment, which lesson is learned by the next processor of the same product. It can be said that most traditional processing technology still remains the same, while equipment technology leans toward more modern technology. However, most equipment using high technology must be imported. When considering processing technology, the traditional technologies used in small and medium food processing industries are drying, fermentation and special technology for traditional foods. The modern technologies are imported and used for conventional processed food products; these are chilling, freezing, pasteurization, sterilization and special technology for specific food products. (Basic needs and, 1982)
Government Efforts in Agriculture:
Before the economic crisis in 1997, the promotion and development of rural-based food industries was in the hands of various government agencies as their normal activities. Since then until 1999, the Thai Government has put more effort into SME assistance, in the hope that they will help the country to recover from the crisis. An SME manufacturing sector restructuring plan was established. Under the plan, was a project on efficiency development of SMEs run by the Department of Industrial Promotion, with the collaboration of universities around the country. The objective of the project was to assist target groups, including food processing industry, to upgrade and improve their capability in running their enterprises, through efficiency improvement in the areas of production, management and product quality. Special services were given to 500 selected SMEs in 1999. The Department hired professors in the required fields to serve as consultants to the SMEs, for six months in each industry. The consultants could assist in production problem solving, productivity improvement, product development, marketing and finance management. Specific to the quality systems in manufacturing, there were three government agencies that provided this service: the Office of Industrial Product Standard, Ministry of Industry; Center for Productivity Promotion, Ministry of Industry; and the National Science and Technology Development Agency. The first one emphasized on ISO 9000, while the latter two agencies emphasized on their own developed quality systems which are more appropriate to SMEs. (Policies for agricultural, 2001)
Industrial promotion is the main responsibility of the Department of Industrial Promotion, Ministry of Industry. However, there are other government agencies that have related activities that unavoidably overlap. A few of the names and their related activities are listed below:
Department of Agricultural Promotion, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative (MAC) helps farmer groups to create income by food and non-food processing of agricultural produce.
Department of Cooperatives, MAC, assists farmers in forming cooperative groups for doing useful activities, including food processing.
Department of Fishery, MAC, overlooks and promotes fishery businesses starting from harvesting to finished product manufacturing