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NEWS UPDATES 26 July 2010

Thai farm zoning

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The Agriculture Ministry has stepped up a restructuring programme that could lead to better farm zoning for food and fuel crops in Thailand.

Chalong Tepwituksakit (left), deputy director-general of the Land Development Department, advises farmers on soil quality improvement, according to the Bangkok Post.

The restructuring plans would first focus on 20 designated "farm estates", in which necessary facilities and pre-and post-harvest management would be provided to improve productivity and ensure sustainable development in agriculture.

"The concept of building farm estates is the same as for industrial estates," explained Apichart Jongskul, secretary-general of the Office of Agriculture Economics.

While industrial estates have been equipped with facilities for efficient manufacturing and well supported by the government, farm estates would also receive basic infrastructure such as proper irrigation, soil improvement, and the use of good seed, he said.

The 20 estates chosen from potential areas across the country cover about 300,000 rai with 20,000 farmers expected to engage in the programme that will run through 2014.

The focus will be on rice, maize, cassava, sugarcane, and oil palm but farmers in the estates would be also encouraged to run integrated farming, allowing them to grow other crops and raise livestock.

Some of the areas chosen are now owned by the Agricultural Land Reform Office, the Land Development Department, and the Agricultural Extension Department. These agencies have already started 16 agricultural estates and six new sites will be added this year.

Some of the sites include rice farm estates located in Chachoengsao, Nakhon Pathom, and Suphan Buri; Hom Mali rice estates in Roi Et, Surin, and Chiang Rai; oil palm estates in Pattani, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat; cassava farm estates situated in Nakhon Ratchasima, Sa Kaeo and Chanthaburi; maize in Tak and Phetchabun; and sugarcane estates in Kamphaeng Phet.

"The 20 farm estates will be a prototype for future Thai farming that utilise management, technology and marketing to support farmers," said Mr Apichart. "We not only expect to see about a 20% rise in production from the area but hope that the pattern, if successful, would induce more young people to work in the farm sector."

He said the government welcomes private companies to take part, especially for buying back produce, or post-harvest management but any deals must be fair to farmers.

After a five-year programme, the ministry plans to use these prototype estates for further expansion and support farm zoning, especially for energy crops to meet strong demand and fulfill its agreement with the ministries of energy and industry.

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