• 25 Apr 2008 at 3:05 PM

Thailand: Rice Basket To The World

There’s a deep irony to all the talk about the global food crunch (they laugh at our “credit crunch” here, you can’t eat credit) portending dark deeds in Thailand. This country is hardly in danger of running out of rice, short term or long term. In fact, it supplies the international market with 30% of its rice. This eclipses many countries, such as China, that produce far more rice but have limited exposure to global markets due to export curbs. Thailand, despite the dire talk of rice price hikes, probably stands to reap huge profits from the Food Crunch.
What’s more, Thailand could produce even more rice than it does. Large parts of its rice fields are underproductive, in part because they are not properly irrigated. Many fields that could produce multiple crops a year produce just one or two. Price controls and other government mucking about contribute to the low-productivity. But, if I were asked, I’d probably say an even bigger role is played by the heat here. It’s really, really hot in the summer. And it’s summer right now. It takes a lot of baht to motivate Thai farmers to work in the summ er. Leisure in this kind of weather is a highly prized commodity. But if prices get high enough, the farmers will dismount from the hammocks and get to planting.
So if Thailand has plenty of rice and could produce more if the price was right, what’s all the fuss about? To understand the issue, you have to realize that in this part of the world rice quite literally has a religious dimension. In the mornings you can find women on the streets given rice to monks to “make merit”–which is Buddhist for scoring religious points. At images of the Buddha throughout Thailand, people leave offerings of rice. High prices are seen as interfering with the religious obligations of the people. Keeping rice prices low is a way of staying right with Buddha.
It’s also pretty much part of every meal. So imagine, if you will, if $117 oil meant we had to cancel Sunday church services and Saturday bbqs. Rice, in Thailand, is food plus religion. And when it gets expensive, dangerous forces can be unleashed.
–John Carney is probably eating too much rice on his vacation in Thailand.

17 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
Show all comments ↓

Comments (17)

  1. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:13 PM

    seriously carney, cut this shit out already.

  2. Posted by NomadTrader | April 25, 2008 at 3:14 PM

    Bess, can you pull rank and get JC the fuck out of Thailand before he hurts himself. I expected a few lame posts, just so he could cover himself while chasing babes. But I’m beginning to think he’s serious with this rice shit.

  3. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:18 PM

    dont make slim down all the fucking thai hoes, or we get all starved to death

  4. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    if Rice starts to be too hefty, maybe she’s gonna get fired… yeaaha

  5. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:23 PM

    @3:21–huh?

  6. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:25 PM

    I think he was referring to Condi.

  7. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:26 PM

    carney seems to buffing up his writing skills to head over to the Economist. Maybe they’ll take you in JC, just maybe

  8. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:28 PM

    “carney seems to buffing up his writing skills to head over to the Economist. Maybe they’ll take you in JC, just maybe”
    thanks, 3:26…i needed a good laugh to kick off the weekend.

  9. Posted by american bandersnatch | April 25, 2008 at 3:29 PM

    Carney:
    When you’re back in the states, can we discuss publishing your rice postings in book form? I think there’s a huge unmet need in the U.S. for detailed information from a drunk uniformed tourist on the impact of rising rice prices in Thailand. Would you like an advance or a share of the profits? Also, can I get the movie rights?
    Best,
    AB

  10. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:30 PM

    I might be wrong, but perhaps someone is sampling the rice – while in an opium den?

  11. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:33 PM

    And speaking of writers who can’t write and a disaster just waiting to happen:
    http://tv.yahoo.com/show/31644/news/urn:newsml:tv.eonline.com:20080425:4515f1b637cc_4c1d_b8fa_eca877d69ce4__ER:56193

  12. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 3:33 PM

    Enough with the F*CKING rice already!

  13. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 4:29 PM

    dont worry about the rice, pessah is soon over, demand will decrease and hence the price

  14. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 4:31 PM

    I bet 1000 fucking bucks that OB is able to eat a full gallon of raw rice… do it fast coz i have a long position on a rice contract to close on next wednesday…

  15. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 4:37 PM

    rice is not kosher for pesach unless you are sephardic

  16. Posted by guest | April 25, 2008 at 4:47 PM

    i am.

  17. Posted by crork | September 11, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    V4NQeK I appreciate you sharing this article.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.