Thailand should encourage more entrepreneurs and farmers to adopt organic production while supporting them to improve standards to meet requirements in affluent markets abroad, say state economic planners.
The Commerce and Agriculture ministries should educate Thai organic producers about how to meet requirements in major markets, especially Japan, Europe and the US, where demand for organic products is rising, said Ladawan Kumpa, deputy secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board.
She said Thailand had an organisation to certify entrepreneurs and farmers who produce organic products. However, the number of Thai organic producers is still very small, at around 5,000.
Established since 1995, Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand is an independent organisation operating under the Organic Agriculture Certification Foundation. It aims to promote organic agriculture while ensuring consumers of the quality of products.
A report by the Commerce Ministry showed exports from Thailand accounted for only 0.22% of the global trade in organic products, expected to be worth US$60 billion this year.
Germany is the major supplier with a 15.6% market share, followed by France (6.6%), The United Kingdom (6.4%) and Italy (5.1%).
Thailand expects exports of organic products to grow by 10% this year to around $120 million, while domestic growth is projected at 8-9% to about 1.1 billion baht.
Ms Ladawan surveyed the organic product market in the United States last month and said organic goods were gaining favour among affluent consumers worldwide because of their environment-friendly properties, even though prices are 30-40% higher than for goods produced using conventional methods.
In 2009, the value of organic products in the US was $26.6 billion, of which the majority was food and drinks at $24.8 billion.
The US government promotes organic farming communities with a focus on improving quality and on education about sustainable agriculture. Farmers can reduce costs by 20% simply by not using chemical fertilisers, while also enjoying revenue from higher prices through direct sales to customers.
Ms Ladawan said that if Thai government agencies supported more organic growing, improved standards and market access, the country stood to make big gains in a growing market.
She noted as well that organic products had expanded beyond food and drinks to areas such as garments and other consumer goods, as well as related services.