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 Home > About Thailand > Economy > Bounty of The Land and Sea

Bounty of The Land and Sea


Rice forms the core of the Thai economic system. The staple food of the nation, it was the country's largest single foreign exchange earner for well over a century. Thailand is the world's leading exporter of rice, earning 32,958 million baht in 1993. In recent years though, agriculturalists have found new uses for paddy land. At the same time, modern technology has opened up new or formerly arid land to crop cultivation. The Northeast and Southeast, previously considered two of the least fertile areas, are now producing tapioca in large quantities and in 1993, it ranked seventh after rice, earning 21,600 million baht.

The world sugar shortage of the mid-1970s triggered a boom in Thai cane sugar production. In 1993 sugar had an export earning of 14,820 million baht. In addition to raw cane and granulated white sugar, molasses, a by-product of sugar manufacturing, has been gaining importance. World markets have been requiring molasses in increasing quantities as an ingredient in animal feed. Additional amounts are refined locally to produce ethyl alcohol. However, due to diversification in the economy since 1987, sugar was not ranked in the top ten export earners.

Cassava cultivation on a major scale was not resumed until 1958, when it was taken up by farmers in the Northeast. Foreign demand for tapioca then increased so dramatically that Thailand is now the world's leading exporter. Local factories process it into flour, which is used industrially, and into the chips and pellets sold as animal feed.

Thailand is the world's largest producer of natural rubber. Production in 1993 was 1,484,000 tons earning 29,183 million baht. This substantially higher output was due largely to higher world demand and the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the demand for rubber products. Rubber plantations occupied mainly in the South.

Also in demand abroad are Thailand's numerous garden variety beans. These include mung beans, soya beans and black matpe beans-the source of the famed Far Eastern beansprouts associated throughout the world with oriental cooking. The soya bean is processed into vegetable oil by domestic factories. Other crops grown for their oils include coconuts, peanuts, castor seeds and mint.

Canned rambutan and longan have found ready markets overseas but by far the most important of the country's fruit exports is canned pineapple, of which Thailand is the world's leading exporter. In 1993 canned and processed food earned 42,605 million baht.

Flowers are also an important export item. Thailand is one of the world's biggest suppliers of orchids. there are about 2,000 commercial growers, mostly in the Bangkok area. Major markets are Japan and European countries.

In the past, beef production was a profitable farming sideline but in recent years growing demand brought about by the increase in population and urbanization and by a rising standard of living has led to specialization in livestock breeding and commercial stockfarming using scientific methods. High-quality cattle, pigs and poultry have been imported to improve local breeds through cross-breeding. It has also been shown that cattle thrive on coconut plantations if the space between the trees is planted with suitable grass.

Thailand has export markets for beef in Singapore and Hong Kong and is trying to gain entrance into the potentially large Japanese market. Increased scientific beef cattle production will also be a boon to the fast-growing leather and tanning industry.

Thailand's wide variety of hard and soft-wood forests has created a burgeoning wood industry. Tropical evergreens, hill evergreens, mangroves, deciduous dipterocarps and mixed deciduous are processed to produce firewood, stick lac, gum benzoin, rattan used in the manufacture of cane furniture, bamboo used both for furniture and paper, dyes, tanning bark and a huge variety of medicinal herbs, leaves and roots.

Thailand's waters are every bit as bountiful as its fields and forests. Thailand is the world's foremost exporter of frozen shrimp; squid and cuttlefish are also popular export items. According to the Fisheries Department, a fleet of more than 16,000 powered vessels plying the waters off the country's roughly 3,000 km. coastline approximately 2.6 million tons of marine products a year.

Freshwater fish abound. Besides the many varieties which breed naturally in rivers, lakes and streams, there are those raised by rice farmers in their flooded paddy fields and harvested together with the rice. In addition, the Fisheries Department is vigorously promoting freshwater aquaculture by farmers with large ponds. Freshwater prawns are also plentiful.

Mineral reserves in Thailand are rich and varied, with 1993 exports earning of 3,980 million baht. Tin, for centuries the biggest moneymaker among Thai minerals, remains so today, with the country ranking fourth behind Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Gemstones, among them the legendary Siamese rubies and sapphires, have also long been mined in Thailand. Thailand's coloured gems market is one of the world's largest. Export of gems and jewellery in 1993 ranked third among exports, earning 40,921 million baht. In addition, many different minerals, ores and metals are being exported. The major minerals, exported, are fluorite, zinc, barite, gypsum, feldspar, antimony, lead ore and dolomite.

Minerals mined but not exported include limestone, marl, lignite, potash, kaolinite, ball clay, quartz and tantalum, all of which are used by local manufacturers.

In recent years, the limelight has shifted to other modern buried treasures: natural gas and oil in the Gulf of Thailand. The country's dependence on imported oil rose from 50 percent of the total energy consumption in 1962 to 75 percent in 1981. By producing and utilizing indigenous sources of energy for substitution, such as natural gas, lignite, hydro-power and non-conventional energy sources, Thailand has reduced her dependence on imported oil. Thus, dependence on foreign energy sources was down to 62 percent in 1993.

Natural gas and oil have been discovered in the North, Northeast, and in the Gulf of Thailand. The new Eastern Seaboard industrial centre comprises a gas separation plant, a petrochemical complex and other manufacturing facilities. Located in three eastern provinces---Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao---it covers 8.3 million hectares of land. After the successful laying of a 425 km. natural gas submarine transmission pipeline, from the Erawan gas field in the Gulf of Thailand to the onshore terminal and then to the Bang Pakong and south Bangkok power plants, the gas came on stream in 1981.

As a government-owned enterprise, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) is engaged in the business of oil supply, oil refinery, gas pipeline operation, gas-processing plant operation and petroleum industry. With the cooperation of other government agencies, PTT has been responsible for the development and exploitation of fossil fuel resources in the country.

If you want to read some interesting topics, select the following information :

                          Bounty of the Land 
                          and Sea | Sector Performance 
                          | The Agriculture and 
                          Mining Sectors | Major 
                          Crops | Livestock 
                          | Forestry | Fisheries 
                          | Mining | The 
                          Manufacturing Sector | Tourism 
                          | The Organized 
                          Financial Market | The 
                          Bank of Thailand | Other 
                          Sources of Finance | The 
                          Capital Market | The 
                          Role of the Public Sector | Infrastructural 
                          Support | Public Utilities 
                          | Government Incentives 
                          and Financial Assistance | Foreign 
                          Trade and Balance of Payments | Conclusion 

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