Thailand's agricultural sector is expected to develop rapidly following its bid to include cooperatives in the national agenda, says the Cooperative Promotion Department (CPD).
CPD director-general Somchai Charnarongkul said support has been given to cooperatives but now is the time for the government to put a special focus on this group as the Asean Economic Community draws near.
Nattawut Saikuar, the former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, and the CPD submitted a proposal to the cabinet seeking a budget to aggressively develop cooperatives from next year.
After setting up networks of cooperatives, the government needs to ease bureaucratic red tape to speed up their development and provide proper support, Mr Somchai said.
"Cooperatives are the answer for rural communities as well as a necessary tool for doing business on a wider scale," he said. "Emerging from businesses focusing on savings and self-dependency, they will from now on focus on driving the economy as a whole."
Somnuck Jongmeewasin, an independent community researcher, said cooperatives, like private companies, are prone to corruption as millions of baht are under the control of the few people with management responsibility.
"People in Thailand see many weak points in the cooperative system. The idea of cooperatives itself is good, but those who manage them have to be honest and withstand the test of time," said Mr Somnuck.
Mr Somchai said people need to understand how cooperatives work and what benefits they can get as a member.
"They should know that development should be achieved by all members, not a group of people who conduct management; this is the most important part," he said.
"We will apply cooperatives on a wider scale only when they are able to stand on their own feet. What we want to see is that they have the capability to operate the business on a wider scale."
Thai cooperatives have been cooperating with countries such as Japan and China over technology. China also opened a trading centre where many Thai products have been sold.
"Including cooperatives in the national agenda will also help them to compete with the private sector and multinational corporations," said Mr Somchai.
As of January 2012, Thailand had 7,967 cooperatives with 10.8 million household members. They had a business value of 2 trillion baht per year or 18.95% of the country's gross domestic product.
About the author
- Writer: Nanchanok Wongsamuth
Position: News Reporter