The long history of Thai agriculture
Thailand owes its ideal agricultural conditions to its alluvial valley and plentiful water
supply. Importantly, most of the staple food crops are often found in abundance in the
tropical zones, including rice. Rice has always sustained the Thai people and formed a
close bond with the way of life of the Thais for over 5,000 years. The grain cereal crop
not only feeds the people throughout the land but also plays a very significant role in
the history, culture, society, and economy of the Thai nation.
In an agricultural society, rice, as a cereal, is the staff of life and the source of traditions
and beliefs; it has played an important role in Thai society since time immemorial,
providing a strong foundation for the evolution of all aspects of society and culture.
Rice is regarded as a sacred plant with a breath (spirit), a life, and a soul of its own, just
like that of human beings. To the Thai people, rice is guarded by the goddess Phosop,
who acts as its tutelary deity, and rice itself is considered a "mother" keeping guard
over the nation's young and watching over their growth into adulthood.
It may be said that Thailand is one of the world's oldest rice-based civilizations. The
evidence of a good quantity of rice in pottery fragments beneath a grave unearthed at
Non Noktha village, Nong Na Kham subdistrict, in Khon Kaen province attests to the
fact that rice had long been cultivated in this part of the world - for no less than 5,400
years. In the North, at Pung Hung Cave, Mae Hong Son province, rice husks were
found in pottery, similarly dating back no less than 5,000 years.
Rice-Sustaining and Shaping Thai Life
Growing rice has been the way of life of Thai farmers since ancient times. Their lifestyle
is sifted, molded, and forged in the cradle of a rice civilization, to give rise to exquisite
cultural traditions and customs between man and to an immense diversity in its
genetic strands. Countries the world over nurture and grow as many as 120,000
varieties of rice.
Thai Vegetables and Fruits of Export Quality
In exporting agricultural produce, the exporters of vegetables and
fruits must obtain a certificate from the Department of Agriculture
under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives guaranteeing that
it is chemical-free. The officers of the Department of Agriculture must
make a random sample check of the produce before such a certificate
can be issued. The amount of sampling depends on the amount of
pesticides expected to contaminate the vegetables and fruits.
Nevertheless, the vegetables and fruits are likely to undergo another
random sample check at the destination country even after the
export has been cleared of the chemical contamination at home; this
practice varies with the conditions, stringent or otherwise, set by each
Rice is a most versatile plant. Normally considered a tropical cereal grain, rice thrives in a variety of extreme conditions and
climates, including the temperate zones, for it can grow in lowland or upland environments and can withstand the hot sun
and the cold equally well. No doubt this biological adaptation and species diversity are its dominant features - any plant or
animal that can readily adapt itself well in a variety of extreme conditions stands a good chance of survival in unpredictable
There are two principal kinds of domesticated rice: Oryza sativa, a species grown in Asia, and O. glaberrima, domesticated
in West Africa, but the most prevalent rice varieties grown and sold in the world market come almost exclusively from Asia.
By area of cultivation, rice may be classified into three subspecies:
- The indica variety is characterized by a long, oval grain and is grown in the monsoon zones of Asia, primarily China,
Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka;
- The japonica variety is characterized by plump, oval grains and short stems, and it is grown in the temperate zones, such
as Japan and Korea;
- The javanica variety is characterized by a large, plump grain, but it is planted much less than the other types because of its
lower yields. It is grown in Indonesia and the Philippines.
In Thailand, there are about 3,500 varieties, ranging from wild rice, local varieties, and breeds newly created by man.
Of the cultivation land utilized by farmers, rice takes up more land than other food crops, making up about 11.3 percent of
the entire area of the country. The Central Plains and the Northeast possess larger areas of rice cultivation land, followed by
the North and South respectively. Each region grows different types of rice, depending on its geographical conditions.
Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture issued a directive ordering certain categories of vegetable and fruit exports
(whether refrigerated, frozen, or dried, and whether whole, peeled, or sliced, depending on the type of vegetable and
fruit) to be subject first to inspection for chemicals by the department even if the importing country does not clearly
specify the necessity for producing such a certificate in the first place, in order to ensure that all vegetable and fruit
exports to various countries do not run into any trouble. The details on the vegetables and fruits that must undergo
inspection for chemicals are given below:
- Twelve kinds of vegetables and fruits to be sent to the European Union and six other countries - Singapore, Hong Kong,
Japan, China, Malaysia, and the United States: green okra, ginger (tender and mature), baby corn, chili (including dried
chilies and cayenne pepper), asparagus, longan, durian, litchi, mangosteen, mango, tamarind (sweet, sour, and young),
- Twenty-one kinds of vegetables for export to Japan: kale, phak khayaeng, Asiatic pennywort, phak phraeo, cha-om
(acacia), kaffir lime leaves, okra, coriander, fennel, holy basil, sweet basil, lemongrass, mint, parsley, khuenchai, hairy basil,
sessile joyweed, Holland bean, cabbage, phak chilao, and water mimosa.
Frozen vegetables and fruits, such as asparagus, pineapple, mangosteen, pigeon peas, potatoes and baby corn; canned
vegetables and fruits, such as various beans, asparagus, and sweet corn, as well as pineapple-stuffed rambutan, litchi,
longan, guava, and various kinds of fruits in syrup; processed vegetables and fruits, such as dried, preserved, and
crystallized or candied; and pickled vegetables, such as ginger, cucumber, Chinese-style vegetable pickle, eggplant, and