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Asean Affairs   19 April 2011

Food insecurity is here to stay

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     19 April 2011

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The higher prices of food are here to stay and a main reason is the growing economic strength of China bringing with it an expanded market for more protein derived from meat.

The Chinese people ate 20 percent more chicken last year than in 2006 and the consumption of pork rose nearly 11 percent.

Concurrently, China is encountering agricultural problems due to drought with wheat and corn being the critical items right now. Soybeans are also an issue.

Until 1995 China exported soybeans but this year it will need to import 57 million tons as the amount of farmland has dropped to near the government’s 120 million hectare limit. Much land in China has been converted into urban development or reforestation to control the desertification threat in China.

Global food output will need to climb 70 percent between 2010 and 2050 as the world population swells to 9.1 billion people and rising incomes boost meat and dairy consumption, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in 2010.

Other Asian countries should take note.

Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter, however, the “dirty little secret” of the Thai rice sector is that its production level is quite low per hectare. The large crops are due to the extensive planting of rice. Major agricultural firms are trying to get hybrid rice approved for planting in Thailand. This would certainly raise the quantity of rice that Thailand could produce and export.

A similar scenario occurred a few years back when hybrid corn was allowed and Thailand shot up to be the world’s sixth-largest corn producer.

As of now, the growing of hybrid rice is stalled over vague concerns that the quality of Thai rice might decline.

Food security is a volatile issue and observers say that it was an underlying issue in the recent Mideast riots as the price of basic foodstuffs increased.

The food issue will play a role in global security issues for years to come.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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