forms the core of the Thai economic system. The staple food
of the nation, it was the country's largest single foreign
exchange earner for well over a century. Thailand is the
world's leading exporter of rice, earning 32,958 million
baht in 1993. In recent years though, agriculturalists have
found new uses for paddy land. At the same time, modern
technology has opened up new or formerly arid land to crop
cultivation. The Northeast and Southeast, previously
considered two of the least fertile areas, are now producing
tapioca in large quantities and in 1993, it ranked seventh
after rice, earning 21,600 million baht.
world sugar shortage of the mid-1970s triggered a boom in
Thai cane sugar production. In 1993 sugar had an export
earning of 14,820 million baht. In addition to raw cane and
granulated white sugar, molasses, a by-product of sugar
manufacturing, has been gaining importance. World markets
have been requiring molasses in increasing quantities as an
ingredient in animal feed. Additional amounts are refined
locally to produce ethyl alcohol. However, due to
diversification in the economy since 1987, sugar was not
ranked in the top ten export earners.
cultivation on a major scale was not resumed until 1958,
when it was taken up by farmers in the Northeast. Foreign
demand for tapioca then increased so dramatically that
Thailand is now the world's leading exporter. Local
factories process it into flour, which is used industrially,
and into the chips and pellets sold as animal feed.
is the world's largest producer of natural rubber.
Production in 1993 was 1,484,000 tons earning 29,183 million
baht. This substantially higher output was due largely to
higher world demand and the effects of the AIDS epidemic on
the demand for rubber products. Rubber plantations occupied
mainly in the South.
in demand abroad are Thailand's numerous garden variety
beans. These include mung beans, soya beans and black matpe
beans-the source of the famed Far Eastern beansprouts
associated throughout the world with oriental cooking. The
soya bean is processed into vegetable oil by domestic
factories. Other crops grown for their oils include coconuts,
peanuts, castor seeds and mint.
rambutan and longan have found ready markets overseas but by
far the most important of the country's fruit exports is
canned pineapple, of which Thailand is the world's leading
exporter. In 1993 canned and processed food earned 42,605
are also an important export item. Thailand is one of the
world's biggest suppliers of orchids. there are about 2,000
commercial growers, mostly in the Bangkok area. Major
markets are Japan and European countries.
the past, beef production was a profitable farming sideline
but in recent years growing demand brought about by the
increase in population and urbanization and by a rising
standard of living has led to specialization in livestock
breeding and commercial stockfarming using scientific
methods. High-quality cattle, pigs and poultry have been
imported to improve local breeds through cross-breeding. It
has also been shown that cattle thrive on coconut
plantations if the space between the trees is planted with
has export markets for beef in Singapore and Hong Kong and
is trying to gain entrance into the potentially large
Japanese market. Increased scientific beef cattle production
will also be a boon to the fast-growing leather and tanning
wide variety of hard and soft-wood forests has created a
burgeoning wood industry. Tropical evergreens, hill
evergreens, mangroves, deciduous dipterocarps and mixed
deciduous are processed to produce firewood, stick lac, gum
benzoin, rattan used in the manufacture of cane furniture,
bamboo used both for furniture and paper, dyes, tanning bark
and a huge variety of medicinal herbs, leaves and roots.
waters are every bit as bountiful as its fields and forests.
Thailand is the world's foremost exporter of frozen shrimp;
squid and cuttlefish are also popular export items.
According to the Fisheries Department, a fleet of more than
16,000 powered vessels plying the waters off the country's
roughly 3,000 km. coastline approximately 2.6 million tons
of marine products a year.
fish abound. Besides the many varieties which breed
naturally in rivers, lakes and streams, there are those
raised by rice farmers in their flooded paddy fields and
harvested together with the rice. In addition, the Fisheries
Department is vigorously promoting freshwater aquaculture by
farmers with large ponds. Freshwater prawns are also