Our Rice Culture – A Non-Profit Venture
Every year around November our village in far north-eastern Thailand has its annual rice harvest.
Unlike other parts of Thailand where they can have 2 and sometimes 3 harvests per year, our poor soils and weather conditions only allow 1 harvest every year.
It’s a significant part of our culture and our history and I can remember as a little girl, riding the buffalo out to the rice padis with my mother and grand-mother for the harvest. But despite the long history and the fact that rice is our staple food, very few farmers, if anyone, really makes a profit from rice farming.
Check out our little video my husband shot yesterday and after that I will explain below why rice farming is sadly a “financial ticket to nowhere”
Times are Changing!
Some people still cut their rice by hand and this is called “gheo khao” – (Peter got this term wrong in the video – did you notice that?)
They prefer to hand cut as then they can collect the stubble to feed their buffaloes and cows.
We measure our rice padis in “rai” with 4 rai being about 1 acre in size.
The machine can cut, thresh and bag an acre of rice in 2 hours but it would take a team of 10 people 2 days to cut this same area.
This year with all the rain we have had after the rice has been cut and bagged we then have to spread it out for drying.
The perfect drying place is a bitumen road.
With so much wet rice this year the road between our village and the next one has rice drying for as far as the eye can see.
Why is Rice Farming a Losing Proposition?
This year with the terrible flood water problems in Thailand 70% of the country’s rice crop was destroyed.
In our north-east region, with less severe flood water problems, we still had a rice harvest – in fact my rice crop was more healthy than ever before!
On average the farmers of our village will get about 200 bags of rice from all their efforts – some of course may have 500 bags.
Despite the fact that 70% of our nation’s rice crop was destroyed this year, the price being offered was still about 42 cents/kg (19 cents per pound).
This staggered everyone here as Thailand is the world’s major rice exporter and we honestly thought with the sad losses of 70% of our rice harvest nation-wide, that we would get a much better than average price for this year’s harvest! But no such luck!
Next time you are in the supermarket, just for interest look at the price you would have to pay for high quality Jasmine rice – that’s what we produce – and see the difference between what you pay and what we received “at the farm gate.”
Yes I do appreciate this is a problem for farmers world-wide but in our part of the world we desperately need to be able to break out of the “poverty gap”
What is the Impact of this on our Village?
Simply this…if on average a farmer has a 200 bag rice harvest with an average bag weight of say, 40kgs, then this means less than $3,400 in total revenue (before expenses). And don’t forget that this is their annual revenue!
In fact for many of our village farmers, 90% of their net revenue is given to the bank to offset their existing debt problems. Sure they can re-borrow the very next day but there is little chance of ever saving and growing wealth.
This is typical of many villages in our part of Thailand but people here do not complain.
They still work hard, enjoy life and do whatever they can to ensure their children and grand-children can have better schooling and more opportunities in life. But it’s a real challenge!
Our Village Business
These depressing facts are the very reason why we established our handmade Thai silk business and why it’s so important that we succeed.
By sharing all our profits we also want to create better lifestyles and education opportunities for the children of our remote Thai village and we are passionately determined, with help from our customers, business partners and advocates, to do just this.
We are proud of our efforts to help our village but there is so much more to achieve.
Please don’t misunderstand how we feel. Sure we’d love better prices for our rice crops but we still have a great life and will always greet you with a smile. Despite lacking many modern facilities we have a simple yet wonderful lifestyle where everybody willingly helps everyone else.
This is also an important part of our culture and one that more than overcomes the financial pressures people may feel.
Tell us your Thoughts
If you eat rice what was the last price you paid for it in the supermarket?
Are you a farmer facing similar issues? Please tell us your experiences.
Would you like to know more about our village life? Just tell us what you would like to know – we’ll even make a video if you prefer.
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