Goverment support for organic farmers-simply hot air

Based on statements issued by the interim government of Thailand and related agencies, people may be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that the “sustainable/organic agriculture policy” is very important to this government.  When we look into it, however, we find that the professed support for and promotion of sustainable/organic agriculture is little more than hot air, because of the total annual budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of 86 billion baht, less than 1% of the budgeted expenditure for 2016 has been allocated to organic agriculture.

Organic agriculture even featured in the speech by the Prime Minister at the United Nations on 25 September 2015, when he said

 “Thailand can step up its development to become a upper middle income, through the adoption of the philosophy of sufficiency economy, as the government is promoting the practice of sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, reducing the use of agrochemicals, the promotion of community markets, the reduction of middlemen, and the creation of a social enterprise network.”
(http://www.thaigov.go.th/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=95859%3Aid95859&Itemid=339&lang=th) (in Thai)

The organic agriculture policy is one of the five urgent priorities of Gen. Chatchai Sarikalaya, Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, because “organic agriculture is of interest because all organic agriculture meets production standards, it is uncontaminated, and it can be sold at a good price.  Moreover, this method of agriculture is appropriate to the landscape. And it meets the needs of the market. At this time, prices of agricultural goods are falling, therefore we should produce commodities which have qualities which are being sought in the marketplace”.
(http://www.moac.go.t/main.php?filename=policy_chatchai)

What is more, it has also been included as an important strategy of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in 2016 – 2021. In setting out the Vision for the future of Thailand, "as the centre of production, consumption, and services. Organic agriculture is internationally recognised”
(http://www.oae.go.th/ewt_news.php?nid=20865&filename=index

These beautiful words, however, are contradicted by the Ministry’s approach in allocating its budget. From our analysis of "Version 3 of the Budget Expenditure Documents for 2016, Volume 3”, which was submitted to the Bureau of the Budget, we found that the budget related to organic agriculture is dispersed amongst various government units, and amounts to a total of 600 million baht or a mere 0.7% of the total budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. 

The above budget is divided amongst in the Land Development Department (500 million Baht), Department of Agriculture (70 million baht), Livestock Department (5 million baht), the Sericulture Department (10 million baht), and various other units (total 80 million baht).

We also found that another chunk of the budget related to the policy for organic agriculture (although not directly) are projects related to the Farmer Philosopher Centre, the Farming Museum, and funds to support the Sufficiency Economy. This amounts to a total of 300 million baht or approximately 0.3% of the total budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

The above management of the budgets shows monopolisation of the budgets by conventional agriculture and large-scale farming, which have been deeply rooted in the policy making process over food and agriculture in Thailand, ever since the leader of the country has got involved with the different units in the Ministry of Agriculture.


Notes:

  1. The analysis of the budget related to agriculture organic agriculture may be adjusted, as there may be some duplication of activities amongst different units, and different definitions used by different offices (for example, Biothai estimates the a low budget for the project on green agricultural cities at only 80 million Bart, from its actual annual budget of 400 million baht, since we assess that the majority of the activities allocated to agricultural organic agriculture in the above projects will in fact be used to promote “safe agricultural production” (GAP).   However from another perspective, it could be said that we have overestimated, since the 400 million baht budget may be drawn from various units.)
  2. This analysis is based on estimated figures. We have not assessed to what extent whether the budgets will actually be spent by various units to meet the stated objectives.
  3. Budget documents related to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives can be downloaded from the Bureau of the Budget (which are very similar to the estimated budget which was passed by the National Legislative Assembly and has already been published in the Royal Gazette), at www.senate.go.th/w3c/senate/pictures/comm/1825/3.3.pdf
  4. You may read the proposals put forward for the development of sustainable agriculture in Thailand by the Sustainable Agriculture Network and the National Economic and Social Development Council, which we recommend the Ministry should adopt, at https://www.facebook.com/biothai.net/photos/a.467826533255873.100128.183063271732202/975293915842463/?type=3&theater
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