Food for the future is one of 10 high-value-added clusters being targeted by the Thai government. And at a recent seminar celebrating 25 years of relations between China and Asean, there was a discussion about how China and Thailand could partner in this area.

Thailand has tremendous competitive strengths in the food industry. These include our central location within Southeast Asia, an excellent growing climate, an abundance of raw materials, and expertise in processing and marketing, as well as distributing food to global markets.

China is a huge-potential market, with a great distribution system and a love of Thai food. Clearly there is great potential for a mutually-beneficial food partnership between Thailand and China.

Moreover, China’s traditional concerns about food security means it has been investing heavily in agriculture right across the globe, especially in Africa and the Americas.

In Southeast Asia, China has invested in transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports which helps growers in provinces such as Chanthaburi and Chiang Mai get their fresh produce to Chinese markets. However, some Chinese investments in agriculture in Southeast Asia have proven controversial, such as banana plantations in Laos and Thailand. Some of these large-scale ventures go against local farming traditions and have raised the concerns of local villagers about environmental issues and land use.

The ideal partnership between Thailand and China should therefore focus on adding value to food production.

China invests heavily in research and development and this is exactly what the Thai government is looking for in its development of Food Innopolis, an innovation park for the food industry.

CP executive vice president Sarasin Viraphol, who was a keynote speaker at the recent China-Asean seminar, believes that Thailand has the potential to be the world leader in the agribusiness and food-processing technology, and that building partnerships with China would help us achieve this goal.

To encourage investment in R&D the Thai government has developed an attractive package of incentives and is holding roadshows to attract investors in Food Innopolis.

The government aims to develop the food industry in seven key areas: functional food and nutraceuticals; halal food; premium seafood and aquaculture; essential nutrition and food ingredients; healthy fats and oils; organic fruit and vegetables; and innovation in activities such as packaging, design and IT.

If China responds to such initiatives, we will have an exciting future ahead. However, this should not come at a cost, financially and socially, to Thailand.

The government must ensure the highest standards are adopted and strictly applied, and guaranteed through participation by relevant stakeholders.

Suwatchai Songwanich
Chief executive Officer,
Bangkok Bank (China)

Source : The Nation

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