Thailand eyes Bt1 trillion food exports in 2012

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BANGKOK, April 25 – Thailand expects its exports of farm produce and processed food to rise to one trillion baht this year, Industry Minister Pongsawat Svasti told a seminar on Wednesday.

Last year, the country’s exports of farm produce and processed food were valued at Bt580 billion.

Speaking to the seminar, the minister said that the food processing industry plays a vital role in adding value to agricultural production with Thailand being a key food production centre internationally.

The world population will tend to increase continuously in the next ten years and the demand for food will increase 150 per cent while food production globally will decline due to the world’s changing climate, he noted. It will also impact production quality, storage, and product delivery. As a result, many countries are paying more attention to food security issues.

Thailand’s food processing and agricultural industry sectors currently employ 870,000 workers. The country exports a large amount of agricultural produce but the goods prices and quantity are uncertain. Therefore, more research and development are needed in the food processing industry.

The minister said the country will adopt the Netherlands government’s Food Valley project approach to develop the Thai food processing industry and increase value of its food products.

The government allocated a start-up budget of Bt80 million for 2012-2013 to run the project.

Under Thailand Food Valley, the first four-year phase will designate proper areas in each region and will develop networks of food industry entrepreneurs as well as to develop production system up to international standard.

Education Institutes and entrepreneurs will work together to create databases for intergrated development and cooperation.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has 600 million people overall with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$1 trillion. AEC integration will lead to the free movement of goods, services, investments, skilled labourers. Thailand must be prepared for that, he said.

Thailand Food Valley is a proactive approach of Thai food industries to penetrate the ASEAN market, he said.

As the government is planning to establish industrial estates in border areas and designate Mae Sot district in Tak province bordering Myanmar as a special economic zone. The move will allow Thailand to hire workers at lower wages from the neighbouring country.

As a result, he said, Thailand’s industrial and production sectors will likely be transformed in the next three years.