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
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
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
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
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.