Rice farmers ‘less to gain’ in Alibaba link

Economy April 24, 2018 01:00


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ALIBABA'S ONLINE market may help Thai fruit farmers increase their incomes but rice farmers may not have much to gain due to oversupply in the global market, an economist said.

Experts have urged the government, businesses and farmers to embrace information and technologies to revive the sector suffering from low productivity and declining prices for most of the products. 

Thai consumers have paid higher prices for local fruits , including durian, in recent years, said Nipon Poapongsakorn, a veteran economist at Thailand Development Research Institute at the forum on “Driving farm sector with technology.” It is partly because Chinese consumers are buying more fruits from Thailand, he added. 

"There are many Chinese traders buying durian and other exotic fruits for sales in their market and many of them use Alibaba market place as a key platform," said Nipon.

At the same time, Thai consumers are buying more apple and other imported fruits due to cheaper prices, he noted in reference to the positive impact of free trade.

Nipon said, however, Thai rice farmers would not enjoy higher prices due to glut of supply in the global market.

"There are about 200 million rice farmers worldwide, so it is impossible for our farmers or government raise the prices, said Nipon.

He suggested the government improve its forecasts of annual farm production and if a forecast is close to the actual volumn, it will help both traders and farmers to prepare for the ups and downs of the market.

He said should the government use technology smartly it would succeed. He raised the example of the US government forecasts of the country’s annual farm production which have been 90 per cent accurate to the actual output.The government could employ weather forecast Technology, satellites images and field survey as well. 

State officials in Thailand have failed to support farmers as they spend most of their times formulating agricultural policy, Nipon said. 

The government should instruct them to work closely with the farmers, instead of assigning them to formulate agricultural policies, he said.

Researchers at the Bank of Thailand use big data to analyse the agriculture sector on which the livelihoods of 5.8-5.9 million people depend. They found a growing population of aging farmers (over 50 years old), in line with an aging society while the number of younger farmers (under 40 years old), has decreased. The truth is that the number of farm labourers has been dwindling , while the bright side is that younger farmers could access new technology much easier.