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 country.
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 nature.

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), and pomelo.

- 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 bamboo shoots.