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Rural Poverty and Agricultural Diversification in Thailand


  • Ahmad, Alia

    (Department of Economics, Lund University)

  • Isvilanonda, Somporn

    () (Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Kasetsart University)


Thailand has experienced steady economic growth and structural changes in the economy in the last four decades that enabled her to gain a position among the newly industrialized nations. The structural changes associated with economic growth reflect the changing role of agriculture in the economy. The share of agriculture in GDP declined from 44% in early 1960s to 10% in recent years (Isvilanonda 1998). Its share in employment has shown similar trend albeit at a slower pace. The share of agriculture in employment has fallen from 83% in 1957 to 57% in 1999. The difference between the shares of agriculture in GDP and employment suggests a huge labour productivity gap between agriculture and manufacturing, and it has serious implications for rural poverty and rural/urban inequality. Although Thailand has been very successful in reducing poverty because of rapid and steady economic growth, rural poverty especially in certain regions is a serious problem. 90% of the poor live in rural areas and 2/3 of the poor live in northeastern provinces indicating high regional inequality. The productivity gap is mainly due to the inability of the manufacturing sector to absorb rural labour at a rapid rate. One of the ways of dealing with this problem is to diversify agriculture and the rural economy both at sectoral and farm-level. Thailand has been successful in sector-level diversification with regional specialization. However, this has resulted in regional disparity in agricultural development because of the inability of farmers in certain regions to diversify towards more profitable crops. This paper analyses the pattern of diversification at farm level, its effects on farm income and the constraints faced by farmers in different regions and production environments. The study is based on longitudinal household level data from two regions in Thailand - the Central Plains near Bangkok and Khon Kaen in the northeast of the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahmad, Alia & Isvilanonda, Somporn, 2003. "Rural Poverty and Agricultural Diversification in Thailand," Working Papers 2003:19, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2003_019

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Siamwalla, Ammar, 1975. "A History of Rice Policies in Thailand," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 03.
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    Cited by:

    1. Birthal, P.S. & Jha, A.K. & Joshi, P.K. & Singh, D.K., 2006. "Agricultural Diversification in North Eastern Region of India: Implications for Growth and Equity," Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, vol. 61(3).
    2. Morawetz, Ulrich B. & Wongprawmas, Rungsaran & Haas, Rainer, 2007. "Potential income gains for rural households in North Eastern Thailand through trade with organic products," 105th Seminar, March 8-10, 2007, Bologna, Italy 7895, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Nonthakot, Phanin & Villano, Renato A., 2008. "Migration and Farm Efficiency: Evidence from Northern Thailand," 2008 Conference (52nd), February 5-8, 2008, Canberra, Australia 5981, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

    More about this item


    crop diversification; intensification; regional inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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