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REPORT: Chinese investors shift agriculture practices in Northern Thailand


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REPORT: Chinese investors shift agriculture practices in North

By JINTANA PANYAARVUDH 
THE NATION 
PHAYAO

 

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TWO YEARS ago, Prasat Prueangwichahorn, a Thai driver in a Chinese banana plantation in Laos, saw a business opportunity when Laos ordered a ban on new banana plantations out of concerns for the environment and workers.

 

He brought some seedlings of Chinese Cavendish bananas, or kluay hom kheaw, to his hometown in Phayao’s Chun district and found that they flourished. So, he leased a 200-rai (32-hectare) plot from villagers and started his own plantation, called “Huay Kieng”.

 

“I was lucky to have worked in a ‘safe’ agricultural zone in Laos, and learned many things, especially how to grow fruit without using dangerous chemicals,” he explained. 

 

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Over the past two years, Chinese investors appear to have invaded provinces in the North, such as Chiang Rai and Phayao, to grow Cavendish bananas after the practice was banned in Laos. 

 

Locals and NGOs, however, have voiced concerns about Chinese-run plantations using pesticides excessively and giving rise to conflicts over water.

 

Cavendish bananas are widely consumed in China because it is said to be good for health. And thanks to the seven years he spent in Laos, Prasat built connections with Chinese businessmen and now exports the fruit to China, Vietnam and the Middle East. 

 

He sends off some five containers, or a total of 100 tonnes, every eight months to the three countries. His income before expenses per container is about Bt1 million. 

 

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Prasat said this business would do even better if Chinese investors could take over large tracts of land and allow plantations to be controlled by Thais. 

 

“But it’s hard to do that in the North, because the land is divided into small plots for villagers,” he explained, adding that sometimes it is difficult to meet all the orders. This why, he said, he decided to go into contract farming, following Chinese investors’ practices with hilltribes such as Hmong, Man and Yao living on the border with Laos. 

 

Prasat sells banana saplings to his luk rai, or contract farmers, and teaches them how to get a good harvest of top quality fruit. He also finds them foreign buyers. 

 

“I don’t take any commission or profit, but if both sides are generous they give me something,” he said, though he does sometimes struggle when contract farmers fail to pay him for the saplings. 

 

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Chinese influence

 

Though Prasat appears to be setting a good example by not using too many chemicals in his plantation, the Chinese-run farms are still posing big concerns in terms of environment, labour and farmers. 

 

Contract farming for Cavendish bananas began in the North of Thailand two years ago, according to an ongoing study titled “Shifting Agricultural Plantation, Chinese Influence, and its Impacts on the Agriculture Security of Northern Thailand”.

 

Due to the Chinese-driven boom and expansion of the export market, fruit growers in the North had to adjust to contract farming, Chiang Mai University Sociology and Anthropology lecturer Panitda Saiyarod, who is leading the study, said. 

 

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Under this system, small-scale Thai firms act like investors and sell banana seedlings to contract farmers, and provide them with advice and farming techniques until the fruit can be harvested. 

 

However, since China has strict quality controls in terms of size and weight, inexperienced Thai growers face the risk of their crop being rejected, the researcher said. Supported by the Thailand Research Fund, the study also found that Chinese investors preferred to own and operate huge banana plantations. 

 

“Chinese investors invest in large plantations in other countries, because there they can have full control on the management and ensure highest production,” Panitda said. 

 

This pattern of investment was found in Chiang Rai, where a 2,700-rai banana plantation has been leased by Phaya Mengrai Agriculture Limited Partnership. The firm is owned by Chinese-Thai investors, with the lion’s share of the firm held by locals, as Thai law does not allow foreigners to majority own or lease land for commercial agricultural purposes. 

 

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Another interesting finding is the higher incentive offered to workers. Chinese-owned plantations pay as much as Bt300 a day to labourers, but a major share of the work is taken over by migrant workers, affecting the bargaining power of local labourers. 

 

Panitda raised concerns about workers’ rights being abused and the lack of proper healthcare benefits. She also pointed out that measures to protect the environment were still weak. Hence, she said, the authorities should screen all foreign investors and strictly enforce public land laws to ensure resources are fairly shared between big business owners and communities. 

 

Her study also learned that Thai agricultural goods exporters relied heavily on China, and that the mainland is one of the biggest buyers of bananas from Thailand. Though statistics show a continuous increase in exports from 2014 to 2017, the value of banana exports last year alone rose to 48.82 per cent to around Bt350 million. These figures were released by the Information and Communication Technology Centre of the Office of the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Commerce as well as the Customs Department.

 

“But with volatile cultivation prices, farmers are earning less and their debts could rise. This will certainly affect their lives in the future,” she concluded. 

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30354595

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2018-09-17
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"...Chinese investors invest in large plantations in other countries, because there they can have full control on the management and ensure highest production,” Panitda said. .."

 

That is the pattern to be wary of...

 

Given its size and location, it is inevitable that China is a huge and profitable market for the Thai economy, but there is great danger in relying on them too much; it is one of the great enigmas of economic life in Asia. How does one do business with them, but not foster dependence? Interested members should have a look at Sri Lanka to see Chinese business practices and the possible repercussions of getting 'into bed' with the Chinese. Interested members should also look into the origins of the term "Banana Republics", the central American countries that supplied the US with fruit.

 

While many members are frustrated with Thailand's ban on foreign land ownership, I think it is an excellent and crucial idea; if that law wasn't on the books, Chinese investors would have already bought half of the land in the north and along the southern beaches.

 

I like the Chinese, but Thailand needs to be very, very cautious about its business dealings with them; given an inch, they will take a mile and never, ever give it back. Given the general, short-term thinking of the Thai people, that is a significant danger.

 

Be wary and afraid, be very wary and afraid!

 

 

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1 hour ago, Lunchbob said:

Do the new work permit laws mean Chinese workers can legally work on these plantations?

Was also thinking about these numbers: 200 rai and if I read this correctly he grosses 5 million, so that's 25,000 per rai? That doesn't seem very good to me considering the amount of work it must require to manage 200 rai!

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4 hours ago, webfact said:

Chinese-owned plantations pay as much as Bt300 a day to labourers,

Umh, that's less than the minimum wage up here - ThB 305!

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Farm chemicals and labor issues are bad, but the need for new lands for Cavandish bananas is due to a fungal infestation this particular variety spreads ESPECIALLY WHEN GROWN AS A MONO-CROP, INDUSTRIAL STYLE FOR EXPORT!

The Cavendish is a monoculture, which means it's the only variety that most commercial growers plant every year. Which is also why it is now under threat itself, from a new strain of the Panama disease. And once it infects one plant, it can infect them all. Fifty years on, one of the most popular commercial foods in the world is once again under threat. https://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/22/africa/banana-panama-disease/index.html
 
Bringing this variety into Thailand in this way spreads a disease that permanently infests the soil.
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5 hours ago, webfact said:

 

Prasat said this business would do even better if Chinese investors could take over large tracts of land and allow plantations to be controlled by Thais. 

Pepsi Cola school of business?

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More evidence of Thailand being overrun by the Chinese....

The invasion started decades ago...Chinese came to Thailand, changed their names to Thai names and flourished.

Now they virtually run the government and nearly all major businesses and industries.... and the Thais never flinched.

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5 hours ago, Samui Bodoh said:

 

Be wary and afraid, be very wary and afraid!

I agree completely.  Thailand can never allow foreigneers to own land and I would go further and indicate that  if this situation with the Chinese continues- they will form companies; use nominess and eventually get control of enough Thai agriculture to  cause a national security isue.

 

The Chinese are using the  relative ignorance of rural Thais and their lack of understanding of why China is interested in Thai agriculture to gain control step by step of significant parts of Thailand's agricultural base.  They are a clear and present danger everywhere they invest. Their sole purpose is to keep their population docile by making sure money flows back to China as well as goods and services- this will keep the Communist Party in power and that is their ultimate goal.

 

There are so many countries now that are selling their soul to China and will  lose control of their resources and economy.  The way to stop China is to cease doing business with them.  

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3 hours ago, Lunchbob said:

Was also thinking about these numbers: 200 rai and if I read this correctly he grosses 5 million, so that's 25,000 per rai? That doesn't seem very good to me considering the amount of work it must require to manage 200 rai!

The return is about 2.5 times better than rice. 

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We need a reminder of the toll already reported of having these banana plantations being brought into Thailand. This was a story in the Nation from May of 2016
"In Laos and Thailand, communities on both banks of the Mekong are now terrified about the adverse effects of Chinese agribusiness. People’s health and the integrity of the natural environment are the first, often forgotten, casualties of this type of investment. 

There has still been no official explanation by state authorities, in Thailand or in Laos, how these plantations will be regulated. Local people have been left behind to cope with this trans-border problem on their own, which is unfortunately business as usual."

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Chinese-owned-banana-plantations-take-their-toll-a-30286634.html

 

Again I return to the REASON the Chinese are seeking new places to cultivate these bananas. Once the soil of a farm is infected, that farm ceases to be able to grow the banana crops.

Elsewhere I remembered seeing, then found this warning - in Thai and used Google Translate for the English:

<< คำเตือน >> เชื้อรา Fusarium oxysporum อาศัยอยู่ในดินซึ่งทำให้สามารถเข้าไปสร้างโคโลนีที่รากของต้นกล้วยได้ โคโลนีของเชื้อราชนิดนี้จะขัดขวางการลำเลียงน้ำของต้นกล้วย ทำให้ต้นกล้วยตายภายในหนึ่งเดือนถึงสองปี เชื้อราชนิดนี้สามารถแพร่กระจายในสิ่งแวดล้อมได้ง่ายผ่านทางอุปกรณ์ในฟาร์ม รวมถึงรองเท้าบู๊ทที่ใส่ในฟาร์ม ฉันหวังว่าเกษตรกรไทยทุกคนจะได้รับคำเตือน การชะลอการติดเชื้อสามารถช่วยให้เกษตรกรมีรายได้ที่ยาวนานขึ้น
____________________________________________

ในป่าที่เต็มไปด้วยพืชนับร้อยชนิด Cavendish และ Gros Michel พืชจะกระจายอยู่ท่ามกลางต้นไม้ประเภทอื่น ๆ อีกหลายชนิด โรคปานามาไม่สามารถแพร่กระจายไปไกลได้ เมื่อกล้วยปลูกในแถวต่างๆเช่นข้าวโพดพืชใกล้เคียงสามารถติดเชื้อในประเทศเพื่อนบ้านได้อย่างรวดเร็ว เชื้อราไม่มีอะไรที่จะหยุดยั้งมัน

หน่อจากต้นกล้วยที่ติดเชื้อจะแพร่กระจายโรคได้ทุกที่ที่ปลูก พืชที่ปลูกมาจากเนื้อเยื่อเพาะเลี้ยงหรือสะสมของเซลล์ที่ถูกบ่มเพาะในห้องปฏิบัติการจะไม่แพร่เชื้อโรคด้วยวิธีนี้ แต่การปฏิบัติจะเป็นเรื่องยากและมีราคาแพงและเกษตรกรผู้ปลูกในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้มักไม่ทำเช่นนั้น

กล้วยมีต้นกำเนิดในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ หลายพันธุ์กล้วยแตกต่างกันไปที่นั่น Cavendish เป็นสายพันธุ์เดียวที่เป็นที่ยอมรับสำหรับการส่งออก เอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ส่งออกกล้วย Cavendish เกือบ 4 ล้านตันในปี 2557

เกษตรกรสามารถป้องกันพืชกล้วยคาเวนดิชได้
►ห้ามปลูกกล้วยหลาย ๆ อันใกล้กัน
►อย่าปล่อยให้รถบรรทุกจากฟาร์มกล้วยอื่น ๆ ไปยังพื้นที่เพาะปลูกของคุณ
ฟาร์มที่ติดเชื้อหนึ่งรายสามารถทำให้เชื้อไวรัสแพร่กระจายไปยังฟาร์มอื่นได้อย่างรวดเร็ว

 

<< Warning >> Fusarium oxysporum fungi live in the soil, which makes it possible to create colonies at the root of the banana tree. This type of fungi interfere with the transport of water from banana plants. Banana trees die within one month to two years. This fungus can spread easily in the environment through farm equipment. Including boots on the farm. I hope every Thai farmer will be alerted. Delaying the infection can help farmers earn more income.
____________________________________________
In the forests filled with hundreds of species, Cavendish and Gros Michel, the plants are scattered among many other species. Panamanian disease can not spread far. When bananas are planted in rows like corn, nearby plants can quickly infect neighboring countries. The fungus has nothing to stop it. Shoots from diseased bananas spread disease everywhere. Plants grown from cultured or cultured tissue in the laboratory will not spread this way. But practice is difficult and expensive, and Southeast Asian farmers often do not. Bananas are native to Southeast Asia. There are different varieties of bananas. Cavendish is the only species that is acceptable for export. Southeast Asian Cavendish Banana Exports Nearly 4 Million Tonnes in 2014
Farmers can protect Cavendish banana plants.
► Do not grow bananas close to each other.
► Do not let trucks from other banana farms go to your farm.
One infected farm can quickly spread the virus to other farms.

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5 hours ago, SoilSpoil said:

Banned in Laos because of the excessive use of farm chemicals! Be very wary indeed.

Yes but what the Chinese are banking on is the corrupt Thai officials who will benefit from this method of agriculture all in the name of giving work to Thailand, never mind the proven record of chemical pollution, personal harm done to workers through chemical contact!

We have already seen Thailands stance on chemicals !!

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4 hours ago, Thaidream said:

I agree completely.  Thailand can never allow foreigneers to own land and I would go further and indicate that  if this situation with the Chinese continues- they will form companies; use nominess and eventually get control of enough Thai agriculture to  cause a national security isue.

 

The Chinese are using the  relative ignorance of rural Thais and their lack of understanding of why China is interested in Thai agriculture to gain control step by step of significant parts of Thailand's agricultural base.  They are a clear and present danger everywhere they invest. Their sole purpose is to keep their population docile by making sure money flows back to China as well as goods and services- this will keep the Communist Party in power and that is their ultimate goal.

 

There are so many countries now that are selling their soul to China and will  lose control of their resources and economy.  The way to stop China is to cease doing business with them.  

Given that the Sinothais own pretty well all major businesses, industry & the government it's far too late for that...

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The Chinese are well know for putting health issues aside by adding toxic chemicals to baby milk and vegetables to make a quick buck at the expense of consumers well being  .Why do Asia countries allow the Chinese so much freedom .Malaysia is the only country refusing to be swamped by the Chinese takeaway .

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14 minutes ago, jippytum said:

Why do Asia countries allow the Chinese so much freedom .

That's an easy one. Chinese are bribing every one left and right using the $ they got from the west by exploiting their own peasants in producing cheap loq quality wares.

 

And that's not all, check out a movie called "China Hustle". 

 

Have to hand it to the commies though, their strategy is working.

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