The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) has assured there will be no shortage of food supplies in the country even though the Covid-19 pandemic may force the government to adopt stricter methods to curb transmissions.
OAE secretary-general Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs said the agency has discussed the situation with the Commerce Ministry, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand. They would ensure there are no shortages in food supplies and essential goods if a lockdown is imposed. He added that production currently stands at 60% of total capacity.
"There will be no shortage of food and goods for domestic consumption, even if a lockdown is implemented -- be it for three months, six months or a year.
"[The production of] key agricultural products like rice, fishery products, meat products, palm oil, cassava, coconut and sugarcane will not be affected by Covid-19," he said.
He added that Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has ordered state agencies to ensure the entire food supply chain, including logistics, operates efficiently and increases distribution channels via e-marketplaces. Provincial and district-level cooperatives will be used as distribution centres of food and essential goods, he added. Mr Rapibhat has also provided estimates for the output of farm products.
Although the production of rice for 2019/2020 is estimated at 28.375 million tonnes, versus estimated consumption at 32.48 million tonnes, he said there is enough rice in stock to meet demand.
He said the pandemic may bring about an increase in rice exports as many countries will need to shore up their stocks.
As for seafood and freshwater fish products, output of 2.7 million tonnes is estimated this year. As a leading producer of seafood products, he said Thailand is unlikely to experience shortages, adding there are distribution centres in almost every part of the country and some producers send their supplies directly to modern trade stores.
He said the production of poultry is estimated at 2.88 million tonnes, adding local consumption accounts for 63%, though demand is likely to drop due to an absence of tourists.
However, manufacturers can keep pace if demand rises. The production of eggs is estimated at 15.14 billion with local consumption accounting for 98.3% of the output, he said.
Mr Rapibhat estimated that 1.68 million tonnes of pork will be produced, with 93% accounting for consumption, while export of the product will remain unaffected.
According to the OAE secretary-general, the output of palm oil is estimated at 17.80 million tonnes and the government can reduce methyl ester content in biodiesel to maintain the balance if demands rise. Methyl ester is distilled from crude palm oil.
He added the Agriculture Ministry is also considering measures to help the jobless who return to their home provinces following the closure of businesses affected by Covid-19.