Economic boost: Thailand eyes ASEAN leadership status for both organic food production and cannabis tech

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Thailand has set its sights on emerging as the South East Asian regional leader in organic food production and cannabis tech. ©Getty Images
Thailand has set its sights on emerging as the South East Asian regional leader in organic food production and cannabis tech. ©Getty Images

Related tags Thailand Organic Cannabis

The Thai government has set its sights on emerging as the South East Asian regional leader in the areas of both organic food production and cannabis technology development, amid hopes that these sectors will help deliver a boost to the local economy.

Thailand has been injecting investments into the development of its organic foods sector for several years now under the national Action Plan on Organic Agriculture (2017-2022), implementing over 340 projects over the past five years.

According to the Thailand Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC), these efforts have yielded fruit in the continuous increase of organic exports from Thailand over the years, which showed an average growth rate of 44.46% yearly from 2017 to 2020.

“Thailand’s major organic export products which saw significant increases include rice, durian, mangosteens, young coconut, coconut milk and green tea, and between January to November 2021 the organic export market was valued at THB1.24bn (US$36.2mn),”​ MOAC said via a formal statement.

“Organic rice is our main key export with a value of THB879mn (US$25.7mn) last year, and major importing markets include the United States, Hong Kong, Italy, Vietnam, China and Switzerland.

“It is Thailand’s goal to become the leader in organic food production in the ASEAN region and we will continue working towards this based on the Principle of Sufficiency Economy in order to achieve this.”

The Principle of Sufficiency Economy is a national philosophy based the fundamental principles of Thai culture, emphasising development based on moderation, prudence, and social immunity, and guided by knowledge and virtue.

To continue its quest to reach the top spot in ASEAN organic development, MOAC is currently developing the Action Plan on Organic Agriculture (2023 – 2027). Significantly, this upcoming policy is slated to have increased focus on technology and downstream development of the organic food supply chain.

“Key developmental issues that will be addressed in the new action plan will include the promotion of research, technology and innovation in the sector, including the development of an organic agriculture database; Boosting the production potential and management of the organic agricultural supply chain; Raising organic product standards and certification systems; and Developing more efficient marketing and methods of raising awareness about the organic sector,”​ said the ministry.

“For this, MOAC has been allocated a THB851.1mn (US$24.9mn) budget overall to drive development of the sector across a total of 94 projects.

“The individual budgets to tackle each of these issues have also been set: To promote research and develop the database, 48 projects are planned with a THB176.8mn (US$5.2mn) budget; To improve the supply chain, 21 projects are planned with a THB552mn (US$16.1mn) budget; and to develop marketing strategies and raise standards 25 projects are planned with a THB122.3mn (US$3.6mn) budget.”

Cannabis aspirations

Apart from making it to the top in the organic sector, Thailand also has major plans for developing the local cannabis industry, being the only market in South East Asia so far to delist cannabis with a THC level below 0.2% from its narcotics list, as well as the first to allow the use of medical marijuana since back in 2018.

But it is clear that the nation has bigger plans for cannabis, having launched the development of a specialised facility to support research and innovation for the industry.

“The goal of this facility is for it to be the centre of research and development for the cannabis genus, housed under MOAC, covering research into integrated production technology, refining guidelines for on-site preparation, delivering the best advice on storage and control of use for those requesting planting permits, and more,”​ MOAC Deputy Minister Mananya Thaiset said.

“Cannabis is a new type of economic cop for Thailand, with immense potential to create stable careers and income for local farmers, and the government is very keen to support the growth of this industry [and] develop this facility as a model centre for cannabis production [particularly] within the ASEAN region.”

The facility is a closed-system research building with a 1,780m2​ area, expected to be completed this year.

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