Published on December 7, 2007
The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) yesterday predicted that next year would be brighter for the farm sector, with growth up from 4.3 per cent this year.
However, factors that could affect growth include climate change and natural disasters, appreciation of the baht against the US dollar and excess demand for fuel crops, which would affect national food security.
Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutra said the agricultural sector would enjoy continuous growth next year, because of rising demand for both foodstuffs and biodiesel.
"As an agricultural country, the Kingdom will gain greater benefit from flourishing production and high prices," Thira said.
Somsachee Siksamat, an official with the Bank of Thailand's Balance of Payment Division, confirmed that farm-sector production was expected to grow 4-5 per cent next year. However, farm-sector income will not show significant growth compared with the high rate of the past few years.
Farm-sector income grew 32.7 per cent last year and is expected to grow 15-25 per cent this year.
Somsachee said the baht was likely to become even stronger next year, which would affect the farm sector. However, the currency will move in a more stable manner and not outstrip those of other Asian countries.
OAE secretary-general Apichart Jongskul said both the output and the price of main commodities were projected to increase next year.
Production of rice, cassava, maize, palm oil, rubber, sugar cane and soybean meal is forecast to increase 4.8 per cent, up from 4.3 per cent this year. Livestock production will increase 6.1 per cent, fishery output 3.1 per cent and the agricultural-service sector 3.3 per cent next year, he said.
Dr Nipon Poapongsakorn, dean of Thammasat University's Faculty of Economics, said although these sectors would see a bright future next year, fishery output was of the most concern, because lower fish stocks and skyrocketing oil prices would affect efficiency.
Other worrying factors that Nipon cited were a slowdown in the global economy, a bird-flu outbreak, stiff competition from new players like China, Vietnam, India, Eastern Europe and Africa.
To ensure sustainable growth, Nipon suggested the government cooperate more closely with the private sector on improving yields and creating more added value for farm commodities.
National Economic and Social Advisory Council vice president Vorapol Socatiyanurak suggested the government promote more research and development, use modern technology, increase product access for end-consumers, use modern traders as a channel to increase farm products' value and increase distribution channels, in order to buoy the sector's growth.