Bioeconomy to give boost to agriculture

Bioeconomy to give boost to agriculture

The first-ever bioeconomy development plan aimed at promoting more private investment in biotech-related businesses and adding value to farm products is scheduled to go before the cabinet for approval in early 2018.

According to Prime Minister's Office Minister Kobsak Phutrakul, related agencies are now considering private-sector proposals presented at the latest meeting of the Pracha Rat steering committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Dec 15.

"The development plan for bioeconomy is expected to be submitted to the cabinet early next year," Mr Kobsak said. "The plan is to conform with the government policy to develop new S-curve industries."

A bio-based economy or bioeconomy refers to all economic activities derived from scientific and research activity focused on biotechnology.

Twenty-three organisations spanning state agencies, the private sector, universities and research centres signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year to drive bioeconomy development.

The bioeconomy includes five sectors: bioenergy, biochemicals, food, animal feed and biopharmaceuticals.

The first development will focus on tapioca and sugar cane, now used as raw materials for many industries such as ethanol, bioplastics, food, bioenergy and biopharmaceuticals.

Mr Kobsak said one of the proposals from the private sector was a special economic zone (SEZ) for the bioeconomy, possibly in sugar cane hubs Nakhon Sawan and Khon Kaen.

He said the Pracha Rat steering committee agreed the government should develop a bioeconomy SEZ to increase farm product value.

Private investment in the 10-year bioeconomy development plan is expected to hit 400 billion baht, with added value reaching 300 billion for sugar cane and 100 billion for tapioca.

Mr Kobsak said the private sector also proposed the government amend existing laws and regulations deemed as obstacles to investment.

Isara Vongkusolkit, co-chairman of the Pracha Rat committee on smart farming development, said the development plan, once approved by the cabinet, will draw more private investment in functional foods, additive foods and cosmetics.

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