The stories from May's travel experiences
I would like to share stories from my experiences with Thai farmers since they differ depending on the region.
Let’s begin with the northern region specialized in potatoes. Big buyers from foreign countries have provided financial support to farmers for developing the potato culture. For example, they helped them to buy fertilizers and any equipment required for their work. In my opinion, it was a good initiative that benefited Thai farmers.
Figure 1: A photo from one of our field trips on a shrimp farm
Southern Regions and Shrimp Farming
Let’s talk now about the southern region that specialized in shrimp farming. The owners of big shrimp farms are very rich. Most of the time, they have several different businesses at the same time. All workers come from foreign countries and they are not allowed to talk to any outsider on the farm. They can’t give any information to strangers because they must obey the top manager. I always wonder whether they are being persecuted or not. This question stays in my mind.
Figure 2: Harvest in a sugarcane field. This demanding work often requires migrant workers to perform it
The northeast: a poor region focused on sugarcane production
Let’s end our travel with the northeastern region, specialized in sugarcane. Most farmers there own the land on which they work. Most of them are poor and they don’t have the support of big foreign buyers. They struggle to find a loan on their own. Some villages organize in groups in order to find a loan from a government bank. However, they have to wait a long time before receiving the money. Some of them have a quota with the factory.
The factory gives them a loan at the beginning of the crop cycle and deducts money from the sales after harvesting. But most farmers don’t make any profit. There are two main issues encountered in the sugarcane industry: the diseases and the yearly decline of the sugarcane price. The investment at the beginning of the crop cycle is high. Therefore in the farms that are not located near a natural water source, the rain is the only irrigation method.
Figure 3: In front of a sugarcane field during harvest
My mother told me that it was logical for her to stop growing sugarcane. She said that it is more difficult than other types of agriculture. Some people have many debts and live in quite difficult conditions. She thinks that it is very hard to find a truck and workers, and there is never a return on investment. I believe that the main reason is that farmers can’t adapt their lifestyles to match the requirements of sugarcane agriculture. Most farmers don’t have enough money to invest at the beginning. They could have better results with more support, however, no organization has seriously taken action to help them. Usually, they get support only during a short time for a specific project, but the organization helping does not provide long-term assistance.
In my opinion, the living conditions of farmers are very different according to the commodity (shrimp, potatoes, sugarcane…). When we talk about Thai farmers, it’s hard to draw general conclusions. Each region has its own specificities and according to the commodity, farmers do not face the same issues.