Bangkok, 28 Mar 2012 -- Today the Thai minister for agriculture and cooperatives and FAO signed a country programming framework for mutual cooperation and partnership to redress inequity and inclusive growth.
Despite fast economic development over the past 50 years, Thailand faces serious socio-economic imbalances and uneven income and wealth distribution, which put the rural and agricultural segments of its society at a disadvantage.
"For agriculture as a whole, farmers have been better off in terms of higher farm income over the last year", noted Mr Konuma. "But there were some shortcomings even in the successes Thailand had enjoyed."
With close to 40 percent of the labour force engaged in agriculture while the sector contributed only 10 percent to GDP, the young continue to seek jobs in cities, thereby accelerating urbanization.
In addition, in rural areas it is increasingly common to find that farm households comprise mostly children, mothers and grandmothers.
Labour is in shortage in the planting and harvesting seasons, and farms rely on low-technology mechanization and migrant labourers from neighbouring countries.
"This picture is getting gloomier by the year: the farming sector was intended to grow by 3 percent annually in the past five years, but could manage on average only about 1.49 percent. By comparison, the GDP grew by 7.8 percent in 2010", Mr Konuma added.
While farm productivity stagnated, farm prices as a whole rose and food became increasingly expensive for consumers and, for some items, in short supply.
Low productivity is contributed to several factors such as low farm investment, lack of technical knowledge, and disaster risks.
Critical state of natural resources and the environment
Thai agriculture has been affected by climate change, particularly global warming. Frequent floods and droughts are felt throughout the country, more so in the last decade.
In addition, water issues remain critical as the irrigated area increased by very little, due to lack of budgetary resources.
Though forest land has increased, partly because of reclassification in 2000, it is still far short of the 40 percent target.
The way forward
The government's newly drafted five-year Agricultural Development Plan has four priority areas, and "the country programming framework provides a realistic framework of priority actions in which FAO and Thailand agree to work together", Mr Konuma emphasized.
With the overarching aim to reduce poverty and social and economic inequalities, the framework focuses on the adaptation and mitigation of negative impacts of climate change and natural disasters, facilitating various forms of intra-regional cooperation and integration, ensuring food safety and quality, empowering farmers' organizations, and harmonizing food security and bio-energy policy development.
These areas deal with cross-cutting issues confronting disadvantaged and marginalised groups, and minorities and hill tribes who are target beneficiaries in the programming framework, while gender and gender equality will be given special attention.
In addition, bottom-up planning and people's participation through multi-disciplinary approaches as well as strong government ownership are considered the key element for successful programme implementation.