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CROP DIVERSIFICATION IN THAILAND - Chavalvut Chainuvati* and Withaya Athipanan**

* Deputy Director-General, Department of Agricultural Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand.

** Senior Subject Matter Specialist, Farm Management Group, Agri-business Promotion Division, Department of Agricultural Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand.


Thailand is located in the Indochina Peninsula with a total area of about 51.36 million hectares. Her territorial boundaries connect with Malaysia in the south, Cambodia in the northeast to east, Laos in the northeast, and Myanmar in the northwest to west.

Geographically, the country may be divided into four regions. In the central, northern, northeastern and southern regions, altitude modifies the temperature considerably. It is cool enough in the northern region to produce temperate fruits and vegetables (also vegetable seeds); cool and dry in northeast region, and modestly humid in the central region. These three regions have three seasons: rainy during late April to October, winter from November to February, and summer from March until April. In the southern region, there is no cool season and the climate is wet, but with less solar radiation than is needed for maximum crop yields. Thailand's climate is tropical and monsoonal, influenced by the southwest monsoon except for the south. Average annual rainfall and temperature vary, ranging from 998 - 4,603 mm of precipitation and a temperature regime of 24.4 - 29.3° C (76-85° F).

Administratively, Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, each headed by a governor. There are 787 districts and district branches, 7,404 sub-districts, and nearly 66,604 villages in the 76 provinces. The population in 1996 was over 60 million people, and of this population 64 percent reside in the rural areas. Approximately 90 percent of the rural people, or 5.2 million farm families, earn their income through subsistence farming, particularly rice cultivation and other field crop production.

In Thailand, 64 percent of the population are engaged in agriculture. Most of them grow single crops such as rice, cassava, corn, sugar cane etc. The proportion of income per capita of those engaged in agriculture to other sectors was 1:13 in 1997. Several development programmes have failed because there were no realistic assessments of the limited resource base of small farming systems.

The survival and social-economic pattern of the householders was not taken into full account. The basic assumption is that small-scale farmers in Thailand will be responsive to development efforts if the technology fits their needs, aspirations and environments.

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) has realized such drawbacks and put more efforts to solve these kinds of problems. The strategy is in line with the government's policy during the 7th and 8th National Economic and Social Development Plan (1992-1996 and 1997-2001) which attempted to restructure agricultural production systems by promoting diversified crops instead of a single crop; which took into account income distribution of farmers and natural resources conservation, including environmental issues.

Therefore, the main concept implied in farm diversification (crops, livestock and fisheries) and crop diversification programmes should be placed in a proper perspective in order to

- respond to the objectives and goals of the farmers such as consumption, household utilities, income etc;

- increase farm income and provide a continuous income for farm families;

- reduce farmers' risk and encourage them to make their own farm plans;

- promote various farm enterprises to avoid any risk and uncertainties from natural disasters and marketing setbacks;

- encourage the farmers to recycle farm wastes and integrate farm activities such as crops, livestock and fisheries;

- minimize the use of external inputs; and

- conserve the natural resources and balance the agro-ecosystems at the farm level.


About 41.5 percent (21.28 million hectares) of the total area are farm holdings, with some 17.5 percent of this presently under irrigation. This land, both irrigated and non-irrigated, is used by some 5.2 million farm families to produce agricultural goods for domestic consumption and export.

Among the large number of crops of economic significance, rice is the most important which is widely grown in all regions and covers about half of the country's cultivated area. Other major field crops are cassava, corn, sugar cane, oil crops and perennial trees such as para rubber, fruit trees cover the rest of the area. The utilization of farm land is as follows: 51 percent for paddy, 24 percent under field crops, 17 percent under fruit trees and other tree crops and others occupy 8 percent. The major planted areas of selected crops are rice, maize, cassava and rubber. The planted area, yield, production and value of economic crops in 1997/1998 are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Planted Area, Yield, Production and Value of Economic Crops


Area (1,000 ha.)

Yield (ton/ha.)

Production (1,000 tonnes)

Value (Million of US$)

Major rice





Second rice















Sugar cane





Para Rubber





The National Economic and Social Development Plan also places emphasis on the commercialization of agriculture, moving away from subsistence farming towards intensive monocrop production for export. However, the proportion of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) declined to 25 percent in the 3rd plan and less than 15 percent in the 7th plan, respectively as shown in Table 2. The Table 3 indicates the GDP in agricultural sector from the 3rd - 7th plan which includes crops, livestock and fisheries, sharing about 60 percent, 8 - 10 percent and 9 - 11 percent of GDP in the agriculture sector, respectively.

Table 2. Gross Domestic Product Value during the 3rd - 7th National Development Plan

Unit: percentage


3rd Plan

4th Plan

5th Plan

6th Plan

7th Plan

1. Agriculture






2. Non-Agriculture






Source: National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), 1997
Table 3. Gross Domestic Product Value in Agricultural Sector

Unit: percentage


3rd Plan

4th Plan

5th Plan

6th Plan

7th Plan







- Crop






- Livestock






- Fishery






- Forestry






- Simple Agriculture Processing Product and Agriculture Services






Source: National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), 1997
The situation of import and export of crop products in 1997 showed that the principal agricultural products exported included rice, para rubber, cassava products, fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, processed and canned), non-glutinous and glutinous rice flour, canned pineapple, refined sugar etc. Principal agricultural products imported were paper and paper products, soybean products, raw cotton and lint, wheat, palm oil, vegetable seeds etc.


During the past three decades, national development grew increasingly in various aspects, in particular, industries, services and agriculture. Natural resources were much utilized, both directly and indirectly, for production in each of the sectors. Agricultural inputs were brought into use, i.e., fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Impact of such development resulted in deforestation, soil fertility loss, drought, flooding and serious outbreaks of plant pests as well as pollution of soil, water and the atmosphere. Thai farmers, particularly rural poor and even average growers, could not produce as much as expected. They suffered accordingly from low production, low prices, but high cost of production.

Over the past few years, agricultural development policy placed emphasis on increasing production which mainly relied upon natural resources, the transfer of technology and the support of certain production inputs. Although such development can achieve the goal to increase farm production sufficient for domestic consumption, import substitution, exports, and raw materials for local processing industry, it was found that the producing farmers are the ones who have been burdened with the economic imbalances. An income gap between farmers and those engaged in other occupations is wider to the extent that farmers are considered as the poorest group.

The problems of farmers' income and the downward trend of the agricultural sector growth stems from major factors such as: shortage of water for agriculture, less and inconsistent rainfall distribution, deterioration of farm land, as well as competition in the world trading of agricultural commodities being dominated by protectionism on the part of several groups of nations. Taking this into account, the government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives have set up the policy on restructuring of agricultural production systems with a view to maintain the growth rate of the agricultural sector and to raise farmers' incomes. The policy will be diverted from the promotion to increase production to place more emphasis on the increase of farmers' incomes and the alleviation of prevailing poverty problems. This can be done by providing the farmers with alternatives suitable for their area potential, their readiness and market opportunities so they will be able to make decisions on restructuring their own production systems while balancing the utilization of natural resources.


The typical cropping systems practiced in each region can be divided as follows:

a. North: Mountainous upland area where the cropping patterns are upland rice, field crops (cropping systems such as soybean-mungbean, corn-mungbean, mungbean-cotton, corn-sorghum etc.) and fruits such as lychee, longan, mango etc. The fruit tree-based cropping systems are mostly intercropped with field crops, vegetable crops and flowers. With only 10 percent of the lowland under irrigation, the cropping systems are wet season rice followed by dry season rice or soybean, mungbean, peanut, tobacco, sweet corn, baby corn, onion, garlic, tomato, water melon etc. The typical cropping systems in this region, therefore, are rice-based cropping systems and fruit tree-based cropping systems.

b. Northeast: Rainfed rice is mainly grown once a year in the semi-arid plateau with sandy infertile soil. Dryland cash crops planted are cassava, jute and mulberry for sericulture. For the lowland under irrigation, wet season rice is grown followed by dry season rice or soybean, mungbean, peanut, jute, sesame and some vegetable crops. In addition, diversification has also been carried out in this region, especially with such fruit trees as mango, sweet tamarind, banana, papaya etc., as well as livestock and rice-fish culture in rainy season as alternative agriculture production enterprises. The typical cropping systems, therefore, are rice-based cropping systems and field crop-based cropping systems.

c. Central Plain: Two or three crops of rice area are grown annually in the most fertile region of the country with the largest irrigated area. Other major crops are fruit trees, vegetable crops, field crops and also livestock. The cropping systems under irrigation are wet season rice followed by dry season rice or soybean, mungbean, peanut, sweet potato, water melon, sesame, and some vegetable crops such as sweet corn, baby corn, yard long bean, pumpkin, cucumber etc. For uplands the cropping systems are corn-sorghum, sesame-mungbean, mungbean-corn etc. During the last few years, fruit-tree based cropping systems have been practiced in this region. Livestock and fisheries have also been integrated with crop enterprises. The typical cropping systems in this area, therefore, are rice-based cropping systems and field crop-based cropping systems.

d. South: The major crop is rubber. Rice, fruit trees, vegetables, other cash crops, marine fisheries and prawn farms are also important. For the lowland, the cropping systems are wet season rice followed by dry season rice or water melon, peanut, mungbean, sweet corn, taro etc. Rubber-based cropping systems, can be widely seen in upland area in the rainy season. Most of rubber plantations are intercropped with upland rice, sweet corn, peanut, pineapple, banana and other field crops. Fruit and other perennial trees such as coconut, rambutan, mangosteen, durian, longan, oil palm, coffee, cocao etc., are mixed and intercropped with the same crops as in rubber-based cropping systems.

Farmer's Decision Making towards Diversification

Whether alternative proposals by a government agency will be accepted or not is a question of the incentives provided and understood by the target farmers. In viewing the alternative proposals in economic terms, the farmers will consider whether the income generated by the alternatives is higher than the traditional one. As to the social aspects, an alternative plan may or may not be suitable for their farm resources in terms of land, labour and capital availability. That means market and farm resources are the main factors influencing the decision making (and risk taking) which are the farmers' own choice, and not the government's choice. The farmers will not accept the alternatives if they cannot see a market opportunity. The farmers will also consider whether the land, labour and capital they have are suitable for a diversification programme.


Problems in agriculture stem from technical, economic and social factors. Major problems can be summarized as follows:

Poverty of Farmers and Income Distribution

In general, farmers are poor because of their main engagement in agricultural production, which has to face difficult conditions such as natural disasters, uncertainties of markets and farm prices, as well as good quality produce to meet market demand. Farmers are regarded as the poorest group in the country.

Production Efficiency

Agricultural production efficiency in Thailand is relatively low because the production depends mainly on rainfall; farmers are therefore unable to integrate the adoption of technology for the increase of their crop productivity. Furthermore, most farmers are less educated, which is a constraint in laying down production plans in line with changing situations. Besides, there are problems with farming in unsuitable land. These factors result in the low production of various crops.

Land Tenure

More than half of the Thai farmers have farm holding sizes of less than 3.2 hectares per household. In the future, the farm land tenure is expected to gradually decrease because of limited land resources as well as the inability to compete with other production and services sectors to secure additional land. The small plots of land occupied by farmers are usually situated in non-irrigated areas; their income is therefore low which is insufficient for their subsistence.

Marketing and Farm Prices

In general, the quantity of supplies of farm products is unstable and low because most farmers are small producers. The quantity of their production is in small amounts. Farmers still lack the facilities to store their produce after harvesting for even short periods. The farm prices are determined by the marketing mechanism at different periods and farmers have no bargaining power for their produce.

Technology Transfer and Dissemination of Information for Decision Making

Another problem and constraint of farmers is their education, which is normally at the compulsory level only. However, the development of technology to increase the production efficiency and value of products is deemed necessary because the dependence on natural factors only does not enhance the competition in the world market. With the decrease of soil fertility, the major production inputs, technology and proper management has become essential. So, it is necessary that technology from elsewhere be modified and improved to suit local conditions before transferring to the farmers. However, the farmers' adoption of such technology requires updated and reliable information together with the readiness of capital for procurement of production inputs.

Environment differences and non-transferable technology becomes one of the major constraints. This is because research on crops, in the form of basic research, is carried out at the research station. Consequently, technology transfer is not appropriate or fitted to the farmers' circumstances because of different locality and environment variables.

Socio-economic constraints include cost and return for enterprise investment, supporting inputs attitudes and traditions. Besides that, information flows hardly ever reach the farmers.

Funds for rural credit are limited with the result that farmers have to borrow from money lenders, traders and middlemen in order to buy farm inputs and produce from the market. Borrowing money usually means paying interest rates as high as 10 percent per month.


Land: The cultivated land is approximate 21.28 million hectares of which rice alone covers 10.88 million hectares or more than 50 percent of land used. During the past decade, rice cultivation has decreased therefore increased productivity from existing land and crop intensification by managing proper cropping systems and crop diversification are deemed necessary.

Labour Distribution: Farm labour is one of the limited farm resources. At present, labour mobilization is a very important problem for farm development since skilled labour in rural areas has migrated to the industrial areas. However, farm machinery is available, as is mechanization technology for use for substitution of farm family labour.

Capital: The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) provides credit to the farmers as short term, intermediate term and long-term loans. Moreover, the commercial banks have a similar policy to support the farmers' loan scheme as BAAC. When farmers acquire money from money lenders, they have to pay interest higher than loans from the BAAC or the commercial banks. However, the farmers can accumulate their own capital by themselves or through union saving or revolving funds in the villages etc.


From past to present, a shortage of water supply for agricultural activities has been a major problem facing Thai farmers. The impact is severe for the agricultural areas, which rely heavily on rainwater. Unfortunately, such areas where there is little precipitation constitute a predominant part of the country with mostly rice and field crop farming being implemented. Such a condition limits farmers from carrying out their cultivation to only once a year during the rainy season. Moreover, farmers are exposed to high risks and damage due to adverse environmental conditions of soil, climate, and inconsistent rainfall patterns. Although efforts have been made to tackle water shortage problems, for example, by digging ponds to store water, appropriate sizes or systems have never been determined. There are still other factors which magnify the shortage of water such as unsystematically planned crop cultivation or mono-cropping farming systems.

Being aware of this situation, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej graciously set up an initiative to relieve the farmers from suffering and guide them through the plight of water scarcity, with minimal impacts and pain.

His Majesty' s ingenious solution was named the “New Theory”. It serves as a set of principles or guidelines on the proper management of land and water resources to create optimum benefits for farmers who own a small piece of land.

In the “New Theory: a Novelty in Agriculture”, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej gave guidelines to the people who live in rural areas (farmers) by Royal Proclamation:

“...New theory... a new way to help people make a living on subsistence level. They might not be that rich but they would not starve either.

“...An integral part of this programme is the division of land into 3 parts, one for rice farming, another for gardening and the last portion for water storage...”

The New theory is a novel approach and concept aimed at assisting individual farmers possessing a small piece of land in being able to manage the utilization of land and water for agricultural activities properly in order to create optimum benefits. The implementation plan is divided into three phases as follows:

7.1 Phase 1: The allocation of Land for Farming Activities and Housing Area

The small piece of land is divided into four parts. Part 1, or about 30 percent is set aside for digging a pond to store water for cultivation as well as for raising aquatic animals and plants. Part 2, or about 30 percent will be used for rice farming which will provide the family with sufficient rice for consumption all year round. Part 3, or another 30 percent of the land is allocated for planting of fruit trees, vegetables, field crops, etc., from which farmers can sell the surplus to the market. The last 10 percent is reserved as a place for housing, animal raising, and other purposes. The ultimate goals of the theory are to ensure that during the dry season, a sufficient amount of water will be available for cultivation; farmers will have enough rice to eat all year round and become self-reliant at an economic level; and hopefully, unity will prevail within the community.

From “New Theory” phase 1, There are main principles and important guidelines, which can be described as follows:

a. The main idea of the “New Theory” is to serve as a production system that allows farmers to become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and frugal. To be viable, this concept requires unity and willingness of the community to work with and assist one another in order to reduce expenses, similar to the traditional practice of Long Khaek (traditional mutual help gathering for an activity such as rice harvests).

b. With rice being the staple food for every Thai household, the theory estimates that, if each family carries out rice cultivation over an area of 0.8 hectares they will be guaranteed a whole year's supply of rice for consumption. This means that farmers will not have to buy rice at an unreasonably high price and can lead their lives freely because they have become self-reliant.

c. Another important point is that the storage of water must be sufficient to supply farming during the dry season or dry spells. Therefore, the concept ensures that a part of the land is set aside for the construction of a pond to store sufficient water for all year round cultivation. According to His Majesty's guideline for cultivation of 0.16 hectare, a farmer will need about 1,000 cubic metres of water. Thus, under the “New Theory”, if an area of 0.8 hectares is used for rice farming and another 0.8 hectares for field or fruit crop farming (a total of 1.6 hectares), approximately 10,000 cubic meters of water will be needed annually.

Therefore, under the assumption that each piece of land has a total area of 2.4 hectares, a formula has been derived for farmers to apply on their plots as follows:

- an area of 0.8 ha for rice cultivation.

- an area of 0.8 ha for field and garden crops cultivation.

- an area of 0.48 ha for a pond with a depth of 4 metres and a storage capacity of 19,000 cubic metres which is a sufficient amount to supply farming and other daily needs during the dry season.

- an area of 0.32 ha for housing and other activities.

In any case, a decision about the size of the pond should be made based on the local geographical and environmental conditions as follows:
- If the implementation plot is located in an area which depends on rainfall, then the pond should be dug quite deep in order to prevent evaporation, thus allowing all year round water supply.

- If the implementation plot is located in an area which depends on an irrigation system, then features of the pond can be flexible, in terms of the depth, or width. Only the local suitability needs to be considered because with an irrigation system, a water replenishment source is secured.

The purpose of having a pond is simply to allow farmers an all year round water supply for their occupation and consumption usage. His Majesty referred to it as a 'regulator', implying that a well-defined water replenishing cycle system has been established to support farming all year round, particularly during the drought and dry spell periods. However, this does not mean that farmers can cultivate Na Prang rice (off-season rice farming). If the water in the pond is insufficient, it is then necessary to pump water from an existing nearby dam, thus depleting the amount of water that has been stored in the dam. It is recommended for farmers to cultivate rice during its regular season, which is in the rainy period. Meanwhile, during the dry season, farmers must consider other suitable types of crops to cultivate in order to use the stored water both efficiently and optimally.
- In the rainy season, water will be plentiful for rice and cultivation of other crops.

- During drought or dry spell periods, it is most suitable to cultivate crops that do not require large amounts of water, such as beans.

d. For this scheme to divide the land in order to produce optimum benefits, His Majesty based his calculations on the fact that each farmer owns an average land area of 2.4 hectares. However, the following plan is not a fixed formula but simply a guideline in which farmers who own more or less of this amount of land can adjust the 30: 30: 30: 10 ratio.

In any case, the described ratio only serves as a recommended formula or as a guideline. Adjustments of the ratio can and should be made to suit each area's location characteristics such as the soil type, the amount of rainfall, and the environment. For instance, in the southern region where rainfall is more plentiful or in areas where sources of water are available to continuously replenish the pond, it will be possible to reduce the size of the pond and allocate the surplus land.

Recommended Types of Crops and Animals for Farming


Fruit trees and Other Perennial Plants: mango, coconut, tamarind, jackfruit, sapodilla, orange, banana, custard apple, papaya, santol, sesbania, horseradish, neem tree, cassod tree, lead tree, etc.

Short-lived Vegetables and Flowers: sweet potato, taro, yard long bean, eggplant, jasmine, aztec, globe amaranth, rose, Calotropis, tuberose, etc.

Mushrooms: nang-fah mushroom (Pleurotus sajor-caju), straw mushroom, abalone mushroom (Pleurotus cystidiosus), etc.

Herbs and Spices: areca palm, betel pepper, pepper, elephant yam, Centella asiatica, ebony tree, ringworm bush, vetiver grass, as well as certain types of crops such as holy basil, common basil, mint, basilicum, lemongrass, etc.

Wood and Firewood: bamboo, coconut, palm, camachile, combretum, coral tree, siris, lead tree, eucalyptus, neem tree, cassod tree, Pterocarpus, Dalbergia, Dipterocarpus alatus, etc.

Field Crops: maize, soybean, groundnut, cowpea, pigeon pea, sugar cane, cassava, castor, kapok, etc. Some types of field crops could be harvested when they are still young and sold in the market because they can get better prices than when they are ripe. Such types of crop are maize, soybean, groundnut, cowpea, pigeon pea, sugar cane, cassava, etc.

Soil nourishing and ground cover crops: pigeon pea, Caribbean stylo, African sesbania, sesbania, sunhemp, sword bean, cassod tree, lead tree, green pea, etc. After they have been harvested, the soil can be ploughed and turned over to further nurture the soil.

It must be noted that many plants provide more than one benefit. Emphasis in plant selection should be placed on perennial plants because they do not need intensive care once they are fully grown; while their products are obtained all year round if different types of plants have been selected. These perennial trees will provide shade and moisture to the living area and the environment. Not only that, it is necessary to consider the area's natural characteristics. For instance, eucalyptus should not be planted around the edges of the pond, instead, trees that yield fruits would be more suitable.


Aquatic animals such as common carp, nile tillapia, common silver barb, and catfish will provide protein supplements and can also be sold to earn additional income. In some areas, frogs can also be bred.

Pigs or chickens are raised along the edges of the pond. In this case, pig and chicken dung may be used for fish and duck feed.

Once farmers understand the principles and apply the preliminary steps described in Phase 1 successfully, they can then proceed to improve their living status in becoming self-sufficient; to cut down most of the expenses; and to be free from the external constraints. In order to accomplish greater productivity, it is necessary to follow the steps in Phase 2 and 3, respectively.

7.2 Phase 2: United Force of the Community

Once farmers have grasped the overall concept and successfully implemented Phase 1, which produced satisfactory outcome, it is time to begin Phase 2. The second phase suggests that farmers pool their efforts, resources, and form themselves into groups or cooperatives to execute the following activities:

a. Production (crop selection, soil preparation, irrigation system, etc.)

In this aspect, farmers have to work together in the production activities, which include water for storage, pond preparation, crop varieties selection, fertilizers, and other required inputs.

b. Marketing (sun-dry area, silo, rice mill, product distribution, etc.)

Once they have produced the product, the next step is for farmers to make the necessary preparations in order to optimize marketing prices of their produce. These activities include provision of a central rice-drying area, a silo to gather the rice crop, and a rice mill as well as grouping to sell their produce at a satisfactory price, which, in the process, also reduces their expenses.

c. Well-being (food, clothing, etc.)

Farmers also need to have a decent living standard, which equips them with the basic needs of life such as food and clothing.

d. Welfare (public health services, loans, etc.)

Each community should offer security and needed services such as a public health station or funds established to provide loans to carry out the community's activities.

e. Education (school, scholarships, etc.)

The community should play a dominant role in promoting the pursuit of education, for example by establishing a fund to support the education for youth.

f. Society and Religion

The community will serve as a tool for social and moral development with religion as a welding component.

All the above-mentioned activities require complete cooperation from everyone concerned, be it the government agencies or the private sector, and equally important, members of that community.

7.3 Phase 3: Joint Efforts between Groups or Cooperatives and Organizations or the Private Sector

After Phase 2, individual farmers or groups of farmers would then proceed to Phase 3, which involves making the necessary contacts and coordination to establish a fund or ensure funding from credit sources such as banks or companies, in order to assist them in the investment for activities that improve the quality of their life.

Under such arrangements, both farmers and the credit sources will receive mutual benefits as follows:

- Farmers can sell their rice at a higher price (without being suppressed in terms of the price they want in exchange for the products).

- Credit sources can buy rice at a lower price (since they buy directly from farmers and mill the paddy by themselves).

- Farmers can obtain consumer goods at a low price because they can buy in bulk (by operating like a cooperative store and having the privilege of buying commodities at a wholesale price).

- Credit sources can dispatch their personnel to various locations to implement different activities, which guarantee better results.


The achievement of agricultural development over the past resulted from the country's existing natural factors which made it more advantageous than other nations, i.e. favourable climatic conditions, vast and fertile planted areas, oversupply and cheap agricultural labour costs. All these factors contribute to low production costs although the yields per unit area are not particularly high. However, as far as the world market is concerned, Thailand faces stiff competition from the agricultural sector of many countries of the world.

In the past, plans and directions for agricultural development were laid down in line with the economic changes and the national development guidelines as follows:

During the period of the First and Second National Economic and Social Development Plans, emphasis was placed on the improvement of the country's basic infrastructure. This included the construction of large-scale dams for irrigation and electricity, roads, the support for research, agricultural promotion and experimentation. Although these plans helped to develop infrastructure in farming communities, they did not trigger any dramatic improvement in the farmers' production levels.

The Third and Fourth Plans gave emphasis on speeding up agricultural production, quality improvement of export products, and production diversification. The latter was aimed at widening the range of commodities, that is rather than dwelling only on the major traditional crops like rice, maize, cassava, and para rubber. During this period, there was a great number of forest encroachments and expanding farm land. Hence, the importance of providing land ownership was taken into account by the promotion of land reform programmes. Still, this development did little to change the income distribution structure. It was envisaged that income derived from the agricultural sector was much lower than that of other sectors.

During the Fifth Plan period, importance was given to the increase in production efficiency rather than expansion of planted areas. Attention was also paid to income distribution, expansion of prosperity to rural areas, and alleviation of rural poverty problems. But the national development during this plan caused a remarkable disparity of income between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. With regard to the Sixth Plan, its development guidelines had been continued from the previous plan, focusing on restructuring of agricultural production, increasing production efficiency, promoting the application and transfer of technologies appropriated to each area, encouraging the private sector's involvement in agricultural development, improving the utilization and conservation of natural resources, as well as improving the administrative system of agricultural development.

The last three development plans of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) in 1982-1996 have focused on high output agriculture, resulting in a degradation and misuse of natural resources and causing serious pest, disease, soil and water problems, as well as problems to farmers' health. This has led to production problems, especially for the rural poor who have little or no access to credit and land rights.

The main objectives of agricultural extension development plan of DOAE during the 7th National and Economic Social Development Plan (1992-1996), were to:

- maintain and stabilize the agricultural sector growth rate and commodity prices.
- generate even income distribution and raise farmers' income.
The objectives are to be met through the following policies:
- restructuring agricultural production systems.

- stabilize farm prices and farmers' incomes.

- development of farmers' institutions, improving the quality of life of farmers and maintenance of the environment.

- development of the agricultural extension administrative system.

The promotion of crop diversification is a main component of these policies, aiming at improving small farmers' incomes and their standard of living through producing a low risk farming system, with a low capital input, which at the same time conserves natural resources and causes no harm to the farmers' health.


The country's economic and financial crisis has had a detrimental effect on the reduction of annual budget expenditures, resulting in critical unemployment in industrial, commercial and services sectors. Meanwhile, the crisis also affected the increase in agricultural production costs since farm inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, pharmaceutical products and fuel have to be imported from foreign countries.

The agricultural sector has played a dominant role in food production; provision of raw materials for downstream industries; creation of job opportunities in rural areas to absorb the labour force; and foreign exchange earnings derived from the export of agricultural products. As a result, in this current crisis state, it is anticipated that the agricultural sector can help alleviate and rapidly revive the national economic situation to normal levels.

In order to maintain the growth rate in the agricultural sector, to increase the capability in export competitiveness of agricultural products to foreign markets, to accelerate domestic production for import substitution, to create jobs in rural areas to absorb unemployed workers and to prepare for global climate change, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) has adjusted its action plan for implementation in the last period of the 8th National Economic and Social Development Plan to include the following: 1) restructuring of the agricultural sector; 2) increasing in production efficiency and reduction of production costs; 3) improvement of products quality and processing; 4) restructuring of the MOAC; 5) promotion of rural savings; 6) management of chemical fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals; 7) management of forest, soil, water, coastal areas, and biological resources; 8) preparation for global climate change; and 9) preparation for the 21st Century.

With regard to the adjustment of the MOAC's roles and functions, the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) has therefore been tasked to be a core agency to transfer agricultural technology (crop, animal raising, and fisheries) and to provide agricultural information services to farmers on a basis of one-stop service. By this means, farmers can bring the gained knowledge, experiences and skills to engage in their farming occupation to the extent that they can be self-reliant and can increase production efficiency at community level. This results in farmers' income generating, the improvement of the quality of life, the development of capability of local communities in making their own decisions, analyzing problems, participating in production, processing and marketing processes as well as managing national resources and environment which will lead to sustainable agricultural development.

Measures to Support Farmers to be Self-reliant

· Encourage local organizations and farmers to be able to analyze and draw up their own farm production plan at community level with the technical and information support from the extension agents.

· Assist small farmers and those who stay in the state's allocated land to produce food for household consumption by adopting integrated farming, the “New Theory” of agricultural development and other alternative agriculture so as to reduce marketing risks and high cost of production arising from imported production inputs.

· Encourage farmers' institutions or local communities to lessen the dependence upon external funds and promote rural savings as internal funds, instead. This fund will be used for improvement of production efficiency, support of processing and agro-industries or downstream agro-industries towards the production of value-added products. In addition, another fund will be set up to assist farmers and farmers' institutions in marketing aspects.

· Support farmers' institutions and local organizations to provide services in acquiring planting materials, breeding animals, and production inputs which are of good quality and of fair prices to farmers.

· Promote agricultural processing at household level to increase value of the products and develop a wide variety of product types to meet market demand.

· Support the establishment of local markets as places for purchasing and selling agricultural products in each locality.

· Enhance the setting-up of agricultural product storage at local level and accelerate the utilization of the existing ones so that the products can be gradually supplied to the markets according to the periodic demand.

· Promote backyard vegetable and native vegetable production sufficient for household and local consumption.


It is envisaged that the production structure in the agricultural sector as well as in farm households has changed in line with the changing economic situation. Moreover, during the past few years problems such as water shortage for agriculture and low price for rice were prevailing. Therefore, the government's policy emphasized restructuring the agriculture production system in line with availability of natural resources, market demand and readiness of farmers by a) introducing other promising crops in substitution for the second rice crop and b) replacing rice with more remunerative commodities in areas unsuitable for rice cultivation.

The following are some general recommendations:

· The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) must support and strengthen coordination among government officers in terms of budgetary and technical matters, as well as work benefits. Further, they should coordinate their work in adjusting land models for production systems within diversified cropping systems.

· The Government and/or financial institutions must set up available funds, so that long-term agricultural credit can be provided to build up diversified cropping systems with low interest rates for farmers, in line with their production plan. This will help generate quick returns from their activities.

· The Government must assist landless farmers in acquiring land in special areas in order for these farmers to make a living in agriculture. Furthermore, assistance must be given regarding models of production and related production inputs. The production models should be geared towards crop diversification.

· Local communities and farmer organizations should be assisted in production techniques, management, buying and selling of agricultural inputs and produce as well as in contract farming, so these organizations can function as centres for production and marketing services.

However, crop diversification programmes need a lot of investment. The major policies are: to have available credit systems, manage land reform and infrastructure development, and disseminate agricultural technologies and marketing information to farmers.


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