Category Archives: Country: Thailand

27th AFA Execom holds first meeting under new Chairperson

Bangkok, Thailand – AFA successfully concluded its 27th Executive Committee meeting under its new Chairperson, Mr. Uon Sophal, President of Farmer and Nature Net (FNN) in Cambodia.

The meeting was dove-tailed with a regional consultation on agricultural research for development that was co-organized with APAARI.

The ExeCom appreciated the able facilitation of the meeting by the new Chairperson and the clear financial reporting by the new AFA Treasurer, Rifai, Finance Officer of Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API).

Farmer organizations and coops to track impact of work

Bangkok, Thailand – With limited resources available for their work, the need to track or monitor more closely the impact of farmer organizations and coops at the national, regional and international levels have never been more important.

Thus, the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), in cooperation with its partners, resolve to develop further a social auditing tool that will help them do this.

AFA, together with the Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA), organized a focused group discussion (FGD) on Agricord’s Farmers’ Fighting Poverty (FFP) last Setember 8-9, 2012 at the First Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

The FGD gathered farmer leaders of AFA and other partners from the cooperative sector and regional groups focusing on women and rural development.

The participants had a rich discussion on the impact indicators related to the work of farmers organizations/cooperatives.

One important action point identified during the FGD was for AFA in cooperation with other partners to develop further the social auditing tool that will track/monitor the impact of its FOs both at the local, national, regional and international level.

The FO social auditing tool shall then be piloted in AFA members and can be further fine-tuned based on the result of the piloting.

AFA sees the impact indicators as useful guide for building the capacity of its member FOs and in knowing what support it needs from Agricord.

Farmers call for creation of ASEAN small-scale producers’ council

Bangkok, Thailand – The Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), together with other CSOs, called for a more institutionalized mechanism for participation of small-scale farmers in key decision-making processes in ASEAN, particularly on issues of food security/sovereignty, agricultural trade, climate change, etc, through the creation of an ASEAN Small-scale Farmers’/ Producers’ Council.

The groups made the call during the preparatory forum for the 2nd ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF)-Private-Public Dialogue (PPD) organized by the ASEAN-USAID MARKET project last September 6-7, 2012 at Athenee Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand.

The forum intended to provide a venue for various stakeholders including farmers and fishers organizations, non-government organizations, as well as regional and international agribusiness to exchange views and identify common agenda along three major concerns, namely, agricultural productivity, agricultural credit and role of women in agriculture.

AFA delegates actively pushed for access and control over productive resources (land, water, seeds, energy) as imperative for increasing agricultural productivity alongside the promotion of sustainable agricultural farming practices and access to affordable credit with appropriate crop insurance coverage for both women and men small-scale farmers.

AFA also emphasized the need for an enabling legal environment for organizing and strengthening farmers’ association/cooperative in recognition of the crucial role of farmers’ associations and cooperatives in facilitating collective marketing.

Various activities, important decisions mark AFA’s 5th general assembly

The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) held various activities and decided on important matters on its recently concluded 5th general assembly, which was also a celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Vietnam Farmers Union (VNFU) hosted the event in Hanoi, Vietnam last March 9, 2012 back-to-back with regional farmers’ consultations on March 7-8 and a CSO consultation on the 31st FAO APRC that AFA attended on March 10-11.

The series of events officially opened on March 7 with a cultural presentation from a Vietnamese folk group, who also performed traditional songs and dances with participants from different Asian countries, and with welcome speeches from VNFU Vice-Chairperson Dr. Nguyen Duy Luong and incumbent AFA Chairperson Mr. Tsai, Shun-Te.

Around 45 representatives from 12 farmer organizations and partner NGOs from 10 Asian countries, such as API (Aliansi Petani Indonesia), FNN (Farmer and Nature Net) in Cambodia, VNFU (Vietnam Farmers Union), SorKorPor (Farmer’s Federations Association for Development Thailand), PAKISAMA (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka) in the Philippines, AINOUKAI in Japan, KAFF (Korea Advanced Farmers’ Federation) and WAFF (Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation) in South Korea, TWADA (Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association), TDFA (Taiwan Dairy Farmers Association), KKM (Kendrio Krishok Moitre) and Action Aid in Bangladesh, NLRF (National Land Rights Forum) and CSRC (Community Self-Relience Centre) in Nepal attended the event, and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) in Mongolia.

Representatives from partner agencies, such as Nellie van der Pasch of Agriterra, Ignace Coussement of Agricord, Thomas Price of GFAR (Global Forum on Agricultural Research), Marlene Ramirez of AsiaDHRRA, Jose Osaba of WRF (World Rural Forum), Michael Commons of Green Net, and Dinah Fuentisima of WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) also graced the occasion.

Review of accomplishments and decisions

Opening with a video showing photos of the past four general assemblies of AFA, the 5th general assembly reviewed AFA’s accomplishments in the last two years (2010-2011) vis-a-vis the strategic plans it set for 2011-2015, while member FOs gave updates on their respective organizational activities.

The assembly also heard, discussed and adopted the Chairperson’s report regarding the administration and activities of AFA and confirmed decisions made by the Executive Committee in between general assemblies.

Exhibit, field visit, and courtesy call

As part of AFA’s knowledge sharing activities, each AFA member organization also put up an exhibit of its country’s agricultural products and traditional processed foods just outside the meeting room, where participants exchanged information on the items on display.

On March 8, participants also went on a field visit to an organic farming project, which is run mainly by women farmers.

It was followed by a short meeting with the VNFU chairperson and other leaders at the VNFU headquarters in a new building in Hanoi, where the two sides shared their aspirations and activities for farmers.

Two-year thrusts, new members, and new officers

The 5th General Assembly set the thrusts of AFA for the next two years, focusing mainly on governance and organizational development, capacity building, knowledge management, and policy advocacy.

The assembly welcomed AFA’s first two member FOs from South Asia — KKM (Kendrio Krishok Moitre) in Bangladesh and NLRF (National Land Rights Forum) in Nepal — whose applications for regular membership were previously approved by the AFA Execom.

It also determined the new set of Executive Committee members for 2012-2014, which in turn elected the new set of officers.

Through a collegial process that follows the tradition of leadership rotation, the Execom elected FNN President Uon Sophal as the new AFA Chairperson, the representative from Ainoukai as Vice-Chaiperson and the representative from API as Treasurer, while re-appointing Esther Penunia as Secretary General.

10th year anniversary, international women’s day, and tribute to farmer leaders

The general assembly was also an occasion for celebration and commemoration.

AFA celebrated its 10th year of existence through an exhibit of agricultural products, solidarity night, ritual of mixing and distributing traditional rice varieties from each Asian country, reading of solidarity statements from partners, awarding of plaques of appreciation, launching of a draft anniversary video and banners containing 10 themes, and the announcement of a plan to come out with a coffee table book highlighting AFA’s important achievements and future plans.

AFA also celebrated International Women’s Day during the field visit, courtesy call to VNFU headquarters, and solidarity night on March 8.

The Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF), AFA’s first and so far only FO member composed solely of women, gave away gifts to women farmers during the field visit to the organic farming project.

VNFU’s Chairperson and other leaders also presented gifts to all AFA women during the courtesy call at the VNFU headquarters.

AFA’s women were again honored during the solidarity night, where they were given roses and asked to share their sentiments about the occasion.

Finally, the general assembly also set aside a special time to commemorate the heroism and martyrdom of farmer leaders in AFA who have died in the struggle for farmers’ rights.

The life and death of farmer leaders Lee Kyung Hae of South Korea; Vicente Paglinawan, Renato Penas, and Florita Caya of the Philippines; and women farmers Lamlaya Chamchamagar and Janak Kumari Chaudhary who died during the land rights campaign in Nepal were presented at the opening of the general assembly, followed by a moment of silence and a dedication of the event to their memory.

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In the News: Rice price hike possible due to new Thai policies

Thailand’s incoming government is planning to implement a new policy of buying unmilled rice or paddy from growers at 15,000 baht (about 50 per cent above current prices) by the end of the year. This will allow rice farmers to earn more, but it might also drive rice export prices up by around 50 per cent. The rice in prices might affect rice importing countries.

SINGAPORE: Thailand is expected to roll out policies to help its rice farmers get higher prices by the end of the year.

And there are some concerns this might affect importing countries like Singapore.

Some industry players said this might drive prices up by around 50 per cent, but some analysts said there is no need to panic yet because the eventual impact from the plans may not be significant.

Thailand’s rice farmers can expect to earn more when a new policy to guarantee them higher prices comes into force by year end.

Giving farmers a minimum price to sell their rice was one of the key policy changes for Thailand’s incoming government. Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra had pledged to buy unmilled rice or paddy from growers at 15,000 baht, about 50 per cent above current prices.

But this has raised concerns because it will mean rice exports from Thailand could cost more in the future.

Read more from Channel News Asia

In the News: World’s biggest rice exporter sets GE-free rice policy

Manila, Philippines – Greenpeace today called on the Philippine government to follow the example of Thailand, the world’s top rice exporter, and commit to keep rice production free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).  The call came as farmers and environmental activists in Thailand celebrated Thai Rice and Farmers’ Day commending the country’s GE-free rice policy.

The GE-free rice policy, a key strategy in Thailand’s Rice Masterplan, not only protects rice farmers and consumers, but also safeguards Thailand’s thousands-year old rice heritage from the inherent risks posed by genetically-engineered (GE) crops.  The strategy is widely seen as an acknowledgement embedded in government policy that GE crops are unnecessary and a risk to sustainable future for farming.

“This strategy gives Southeast Asia’s rice farmers and consumers reason to celebrate — and it’s a blow for unscrupulous GMO crop promoters.  A major global rice producer and exporter acknowledges that GMOs are a bad option for rice production.  The Department of Agriculture should follow the Thai example and declare their commitment to keep rice farming sustainable and rice crops free of environmental and health risks associated with GE crops,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

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In the News (Thailand): Help on the way for organic farmers

Organic farmers or those aspiring to make the change now have more opportunities to obtain expert advice through the Industrial Technology Assistance Programme (ITAP).

The unit of the National Science and Technology Development Agency has spent the past year accumulating knowledge and developing technical capacity and is now ready to offer consulting services, said Phongchai Jittamai, the manager of the project.

He said ITAP aimed to have at least 30 organic farms apply for its integrated organic farm services nationwide within this year.

The agency is interested in particular in helping small and medium-sized farm operators who have struggled financially because of overuse of chemicals and pesticide, he added.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): Editorial: Forced Labor

A conspiracy indictment was brought last week against a Los Angeles company, alleging forced labor on a chilling scale. Six contractors are accused of a scheme to hold 400 workers from Thailand in virtual slavery on farms in Hawaii and Washington State. The Justice Department says it is the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the federal government. Just as disturbing is how familiar the accusations are.

The company, Global Horizons Manpower, is accused of abusing the federal guest worker program, known as H-2A, in 2004 and 2005 and luring workers with false promises of steady work at decent pay. The workers, poor men from the Thai countryside, took on crushing debt to pay exorbitant recruiting fees, about $9,500 to $21,000. After they arrived in America, according to the indictment, their passports were taken and they were set up in shoddy housing and told that if they complained or fled they would be fired, arrested or deported.

The case, brought in Honolulu, coincides with the sentencing on Thursday of two Hawaii farmers, Mike and Alec Sou, who pleaded guilty in January to a forced-labor scheme involving 44 Thai workers. The Sous worked with Global Horizons before but are linked to the latest case only by the methods they admitted to using.

Read the full story at the New York Times

In the News (Thailand): Farm-linked NPLs need urgent attention

Non-performing loans in the agriculture sector could double to 200 billion baht with one million farmers hurt if proper debt restructuring does not take place, says Kanok Wongtranghan, an adviser to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Currently, 510,000 farmers with total debts of 100 billion baht need to enter the debt restructuring process sponsored by the government, according to the plan approved by the cabinet on April 7.

Four banks – Krung Thai Bank, the Government Savings Bank, the Government Housing Bank and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Co-operatives – have joined the programme.

About 70% of debts to be restructured are lent by BAAC and the rest by the other three banks.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): Sufficiency economy can solve poverty problem

The only way to solve the poverty problems in rural areas is to adopt His Majesty the King’s sufficiency economy. This approach not only solves the poverty problem, it also helps reduce farmers’ accumulated debts as well as promoting unity in the community,” said Ennu Suesuwan, executive vice president of the Bank for Agriculture and Agriculture Cooperatives as reported by Thai Rath.

Mr Ennu expressed his thoughts to the media while leading a group on a visit to a sufficiency economy village at tambon Nong Sarai, Phanom Thuan district, Kanchanaburi, which received His Majesty’s trophy for outstanding achievement.

After the village adopted the sufficiency economy principle, within a few years the villagers had risen above the poverty line.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): A fair deal for producers and consumers alike

The Fairtrade programme, a price guarantee scheme in the farming sector, is doing its part to help disadvantaged farmers by ensuring a ready market and fair prices for products that offer better deals for producers and the environment.

Under the Germany-based Fairtrade movement, a minimum price is guaranteed to farmers in developing countries for each product that receives certification under the programme. Along with minimum prices, the programme also requires organic production techniques and that a premium be paid to producers by traders on top of the agreed price for community development and to ensure fair treatment of labour.

For farmers in rural Thailand, such as the Akha hilltribe people in a remote village in Doi Chaang in Chiang Rai, Fairtrade has transformed lives.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): 300 landless farmers invade national park

BURI RAM : About 300 landless farmers from Non Dindaeng district have moved on to land in Dong Yai National Park.

Farmers from six villages in tambon Lam Nang Rong yesterday divided up the occupied land among themselves and planted rubber tree seedlings.

They said the seedlings represented their ownership over the land.

The farmers said the government was too slow in fulfilling a promise to allocate them the land, so they decided to take it for themselves.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): Home-made fertilisers promoted

Farmers are being encouraged to produce bio-fertilisers and pesticides on their own in order to cut expenses on imported chemical products and promote healthier cultivation.

The cost of imported chemical fertilisers and pesticides has surged along with oil prices in recent years. Thailand paid nearly 99 billion baht for fertilisers in 2008 as fuel prices soared to US$147 per barrel.

Needed farm essentials can be produced in farmers’ backyards using only catalyst products developed by the Land Development Department, said deputy director-general Chalong Tepwituksakit.

“We now know the use of chemical substances is harmful not only to farmers but also the environment, as soil and water quality become degraded,” he said.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News (Thailand): Rice planting overhaul planned

The government plans to spend 2 billion baht over three years to persuade farmers to grow rice no more than twice a year as it strives to reduce risks from pests, water shortages and uneven supply.

The programme will cover 22 provinces with 9.5 million rai, mainly in the well-irrigated central and lower North regions.

Plentiful water supplies have encouraged farmers in well-irrigated areas to grow as many as five crops a year. Such intensive cultivation increases the risk of brown planthoppers, depletes soil quality and lowers productivity per rai.

Very dry conditions this year have reduced the second crop, especially in areas where irrigation is poor, and the government has been asking farmers to curb planting because water is scarce.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post

In the News: Thailand’s rice production to take a battering from drought as water crisis looms

BANGKOK — The world’s largest rice exporter, Thailand, is facing major losses to its next crop of rice and a worsening water crisis because of the worst drought in nearly two decades.

Chanchai Rakthananon, president of the Thai Rice Mills Association, said Tuesday that rice output for the next crop cycle, ending in August, could fall to as little as two million tons from a previously forecast five million tons.

“It didn’t rain when it needed to rain,” said Angsumal Sunalai, director general of the Thai Meteorological Department. He blamed global climate change for the problem.

Chalit Damroengsak, director general of the Royal Irrigation Department, said there would normally be three to four monsoon storms a year during the annual rainy season, “but farmers will be lucky if there is one this year.”

Thailand produces about 20 million tons of rice annually in two to four crop cycles, exporting about 9 million metric tons and consuming the same amount.

Read the full story

In the News: Thailand’s Other Protests: Pro-Sustainable Food

In a remote Thai village, a 24-year-old New Jersey man named Bennett Haynes farms rice and vegetables. But Haynes also plays a more sinister role: in a recent farming folk opera about rice, he’s been cast by villagers in the part of sticky rice #6. This type of rice is an “improved” variety—a commodity crop sold by seed companies—that has supplanted local varieties.

In the opera, Haynes’s evil character wanders the countryside, stealing the hardy brown and black grains sown for centuries and infecting the paddies with his own seed. Sticky rice #6 is white, and so is Bennett, which makes the audience chuckle.

It is difficult to downplay the significance of this crop in this part of Southeast Asia. Sticky rice is the staple of the Isaan and Lao diet. It is eaten at every single meal, plucked from rattan baskets and rolled into dense balls between fingertips. The rice then becomes utensil—used to soak up simple curries, spicy dips, or sour salads of herbs and chewy meat. But some argue against the industrialized model that produces this staple crop. Many farmers here are in debt. Alcoholism is rampant, as farmers become idle during the dry season. And the region’s political discontent has raged all the way down to Bangkok. Upcountry Thai farmers are not faring well.

Read the full story

In the News: The future of farming in Thailand

Chaiyaporn Promphan is one of those rare breeds of farmers: the longer he engages in rice farming, the more land he accumulates. The native of Suphan Buri, the rice belt of the Kingdom, started out working on about thirty rai (4.8 hectares) of land and now boasts the possession of 102 rai, acquired gradually through money earned from selling his harvests. In 1995, he attended the Royal Ploughing ceremony in Sanam Luang, Bangkok to receive the best farmer of the year award from His Majesty the King.

“That was the first and only time I have participated in the ceremony. But, even now, I continue to watch the live broadcast of the event on TV,” said the 49-year-old. “I want to know about the predictions on water availability. Curiously, they often turn out to be pretty close to what transpires afterwards.”

Another intriguing phenomenon observed by Chaiyaporn is the “forecast” made by the random choice of foods picked by the royal bulls (Phra Kho) during the ceremony – whenever they choose to sip on the liquor, which in the Brahmanical astrology is indicative of flourishing international trade, paddy prices usually soar accordingly.

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In the News: Farmers divided over Thailand’s new rice price insurance scheme

UDON THANI, Thailand: The Thai government’s new rice price insurance programme is giving farmers some financial security.

But the scheme, in its first year, has encountered multiple obstacles.

In Thailand’s Nong Bua Lam Phu Province, about 600 kilometres from Bangkok, farmers struggle to make ends meet due to fluctuating crop prices and middlemen.

But a new government programme lets the market work on its own, while protecting farmers from potentially disastrous losses.

Farmers sell directly to rice mills, but now the government guarantees a countrywide average price for rice.

Read more

In the News: Thailand Launches Food Traceability Initiative

Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) is partnering with IBM, FXA Group, and the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) to implement a global traceability program, allowing the country’s exports to be tracked from the retail level all the way back to the farm.

The pilot program, which will only apply to processed chicken and mangoes destined for export, will use smart sensor technology and traceability software to allow “all participants in the food chain” to access information on the products, including farm of origin, date of harvest, and temperature during shipping.

Last week, the initiative invited 600 farmers and food producers to use the new food-tracing software.

“As one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of livestock and agricultural products, we must improve our food safety standards to meet, or even exceed the global market’s requirement,” said Theera Wongsamut, Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives in an statement emailed to Food Safety News.

Read the full story at Food Safety News

In the News: Thailand to cancel $1.3bn of farmers’ debt

Thailand has announced that it will cancel $1.3bn (£860m, €960m) worth of farmers’ debt, a move that could help placate a constituency increasingly hostile to the administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Thousands of demonstrators, many of them from Thailand’s rural heartland, are camped out in central Bangkok and say they will remain there until Mr Abhisit resigns as prime minister.

“The motivation behind this project is that farmers are extremely poor. These are the weakest farmers in the country and they have been accumulating debt for 10 years,” Vichit Chantachaeng, the head of the Farmers’ Reconstruction and Development Fund, told the Financial Times.

Thai farmers have been particularly hard hit by drought this year, increasing pressure on those who were already struggling with falling prices for their crops.

Read the full story at Financial Times