DITP made the statement when addressing the media during the first day of food and beverage tradeshow THAIFEX-World of Food Asia, a five-day event that is taking place at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani in Bangkok.
The department plans to drive a two-pronged strategy, promoting exports of traditional agricultural and novel food products.
This was because while the agricultural industry was Thailand’s strength, the introduction of Thailand 4.0 a few years ago had directed the attention to food innovation in the country, Vannaporn Ketudat, deputy director general at DITP said.
“We used to be agricultural based industry and a few years ago, we started Thailand 4.0. What it means is that we add innovation, technology and creativity and we combine it altogether and link the production from the provinces to produce food for the new generation and the global market.”
She also told FoodNavigator-Asia that the US, Europe, China, and ASEAN were the major importers of Thai food in the past years, with frozen foods, canned foods, and agricultural products making the bulk of the exports.
Besides the established markets, she also named a number of potential importing countries.
“We go to Africa, it is a big market, and the Middle East, although it is quite unstable, it is still a big market, we also go to some other markets like Australia and New Zealand, and even the South America.”
According to a Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) presentation, Thailand is the second largest net food exporting country in Asia, with a food trade balance at a record value of USD$16.7bn in 2016.
Farming’s income challenges
While one-third of Thailand’s existing labour force is in the farming and agricultural business, this sector contributed less than 10% to the country’s GDP.
This is according to Kalin Sarasin, the chairman of TCC.
“In Thailand right now, about 30% of the labour force is in farming and agricultural businesses, but the income from the agricultural business is only 8% of the country’s GDP, so that is very little.”
To address the profit challenges, Sarasin said that TCC members would be attending the trade fair to learn from international food firms.
“TCC will bring more of our members to come to see what’s going on in this trade fair, and they can go back and develop more productivity and also new ideas of their agricultural products.
“I hope that the food industry in Thailand will flourish and this will add value to the farming business. The farmers in the rural areas can then benefit.”
He added that the TCC would assist Thai food firms expand internationally in the areas of costing, packaging, branding, and marketing.
“Right now, in TCC, we also have the retail association, so we help companies build retail sales in Thailand first, once they establish some volume, they are ready to go international."