Thailand is certainly a leading food producer and often referred to as ‘The Kitchen of the world”. Exports of agricultural and food products from Thailand are worth more than 400 billion Baht (US $10 billion) per year. Its the world’s largest exporter of rice, frozen shrimp, and canned pineapple. Other Thai products – such as vegetables, fruit, cassava, sugar, fish, and chicken – can be found in markets all around the world.
The importance of food and agriculture to Thailand is undisputable. About 40% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and it contributes to about 10% of GDP. The country is the world’s leading rice exporter and has successfully positioned itself as the “Kitchen of the World,” with the annual value of food exports expected to exceed 1 trillion baht in 2012.
Thailand also has the tastiest food in the world. That’s what we think, and a lot of foreigners agree with us. There are thousands of Thai restaurants in Europe, America, Australia and other parts of Asia.
But not everybody is happy with what they are buying from Thailand. Complaints from the European Union about chemicals in Thai shrimp and chicken have had a serious effect on the export of these products. The USA and China have complained about chemicals in Thai fruit, the UK has complained about chemicals in Thai rice and Japan has complained about chemicals in Thai vegetables.
The fact that Thai food often includes dangerous chemicals has become the number one reason for trade conflicts. This is another reason why the Thai Government is worried about the quality of our food. If other countries reject our exports, this could hurt the national economy and affect the jobs of thousands of people.
While food security commands attention at the highest levels of government, government alone cannot solve the issue. It is also more than an agricultural responsibility, with a complex matrix of drivers touching many public and private sector stakeholders.
Given the complexity and magnitude of the challenge, it seems clear that major collective action is urgently needed.
This is easier said than done.
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