A large-scale public programme to promote organic rice farming in Thailand: building solid foundations to enable farmers to engage?

Abstract

In the 2010s, governments of newly industrialised economies in Asia took a proactive stance in the promotion of organic farming. In 2017, the government of Thailand launched a 4-year programme aimed at converting 160,000 ha to the production of certified organic rice, representing a five-fold increase. This article analyses to what extent the programme made certified organic farming accessible to a large number of farmers, and at the same time helped develop an organisationally and economically sustainable organic sector. Interviews were conducted with farmers, staff of public organisations and managers of rice mills that purchased organic rice. The programme provided training, subsidies to farmers and application for certification that was free of charge. The process through which farmers collectively shifted to organic farming involved requirements that were generally accessible to farmers. In terms of the surface area registered in the programme, the objective was rapidly reached. However, the programme used a national standard that is not widely recognised abroad, there were weaknesses in the inspections made as part of the certification process and the price premium received by farmers was lower than originally expected. Farmers who considered profitability was important received no support in getting certificates from other organic standards that could help them obtain higher premium prices. Whether these farmers will continue to practice organic farming once the programme ends is thus questionable.

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Data availability

Data available on request.

Notes

  1. 1.

    In May 2019, 1 USD = 31.8 Thai baht (THB).

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Funding

The research was undertaken as part of the DOUBT research project and was funded by the French National Research Agency.

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Correspondence to Océane Hérique.

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Hérique, O., Faysse, N. A large-scale public programme to promote organic rice farming in Thailand: building solid foundations to enable farmers to engage?. Org. Agr. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13165-020-00320-4

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Keywords

  • Organic farming
  • Public programmes
  • Rice
  • Thailand
  • Transitioning