The impacts of COVID-19 have been widespread, throwing the world economy into disarray. Thailand has felt this impact firsthand and has seen its engines of growth take a huge hit.
Moving forward, the Thai government is planning to implement the BCG (Bio-Circular-Green) Economic Model as its main national agenda. While the BCG will focus on creating a launchpad for eco-friendly businesses and innovations across a number of different industries, this article will mainly focus on “food for the future” and agriculture.
The BCG Impact on Thailand’s Food Industry
- What is the BCG Economic Model?
- How will the BCG be implemented?
- Thai farming gets a major upgrade
- What can the consumer expect?
- Final Thoughts
What is the BCG Economic Model?
What exactly is the Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model? Let’s break it down.
- Bio – The Oxford Dictionary defines bio (I know, I know) as meaning, “relating to life.” This is the best way of thinking about it in regard to the policy as a whole, especially for food for the future. Food is derived from plants and animals, and it gets consumed by us. In essence, this is all biological.
- Circular – In this context, “circular” refers to a circular economic model. This is more than just a model for waste management, but rather a focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling through responsible manufacturing. This applies to energy and material input, production, distribution, use, and disposal along the entire lifecycle of a product. When properly utilized, a circular economy is an extremely effective tool in considering every facet that can be improved.
- Green – Just like the “green” in green energy, this element considers sustainable solutions that can reduce our impact on the environment.
This policy has its roots in the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy. This philosophy was originally proposed by His Majesty King Rama IX in the 1970s. Its principles are based on fundamental principles of Thai culture: moderation and prudence, with virtue and knowledge as a backbone.
His Majesty was concerned that business for the sake of profit alone was not sustainable. He saw it as imperative that the Thai people develop intelligently, first building a stable foundation, and then working toward the next iteration of development.
BCG, with its focus on both growth and the environment, may very well be the next stage that His Majesty had hoped for.
How will the BCG be implemented?
The Ministry of Industry is investing US$213 million (THB6.7 billion) over a period of nine years to upgrade Thailand’s food related-industries. These upgrades span across a wide swathe of targets including:
- Development of skilled personnel – As Thailand moves toward modern, tech-based solutions, it’s important that Thailand has the local talent to meet its growing demand.
- Integrated transportation systems – This will cut down transportation time and cost.
- Promotion of new technologies – Farming can and will become easier and more efficient with technology. Creating an environment that promotes these steps forward will result in better products being available sooner.
- Carbon credits – A carbon credit system will encourage Thailand to reduce its emissions overall. This will spillover into incentives for people in the food business to incorporate green solutions.
- Solar and green energy – A smart grid system will allow individuals to sell their excess energy produced through green sources.
With these new support measures, combined with a booming agro-industry as well as a shift in consumer interest towards sustainability, Thailand is well positioned as an investment destination. In fact, the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI) has offered a number of incentives, including a very generous eight-year corporate income tax exemption.
As a result, some exciting projects have already seen significant support:
- Recycled Food Packaging – ENVICCO Company Ltd. in Rayong Province secured permission for a THB2.48 billion investment to use recycled plastic pellets for food-grade containers, as well as body care and household goods.
- Yeast Extract Innovation – The Beta-Glucan Project at Chaiyaphum and Amnat Charoen Provinces will improve many products that rely on fermentation.
- Probiotic Food Innovation – The Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) Project at Suphan Buri Province will allow for the introduction of better intestinal flora in products that see the growth of microorganisms (like yogurt and pickles).
Thanks to companies like these, new health benefits and sustainable packaging are just some of the options available for modern-day food products.
Thai farming gets a major upgrade
As we ascend into the next era of industrial development, it is essential that some of our traditional approaches to farming change, too. More and more of the new generation look at farming as a dead-end career, trapped in the past. Understandably, over the last few years, there has been a significant reduction in the number of Thais who want to become farmers.
However, farmers under the BCG economic plan will get to experience the next iteration of farming, just like the first farmers who discovered the plough. With smart farming, integrated tech, high-quality machinery, and stronger support systems, they’ll be able to earn more from the same plot of land, produce more food products and options, mitigate their impact on the environment, and incorporate a variety of solutions for far less manual labor.
Imagine a farm where much of the process is fully automated, and you can control and monitor the health of your plants from anywhere using your smartphone. Imagine farming as a career that earns a high salary and puts you on the cutting edge of development, marketing, and innovation.
What may come as a surprise to some people is that all this is already here. It no longer exists as simply an idea. Some exciting pilot projects underway include:
- Plant factories – A closed farming and cultivation system that can artificially care for plants. They offer full control of light, temperature, moisture, carbon dioxide, and minerals while maintaining an organic benchmark that still prevents disease and insects.
- Biological Pollution Reduction – CP has introduced a new project that uses black soldier flies to reduce pollution from ranching. These flies can break down and decompose organic waste and animal manure far more efficiently than earthworms. They are also an excellent source of protein for both human consumption as well as a supplement in animal feed. Per gram of protein, insects are way more sustainable than conventional forms of meat.
- Plant-Based “Meat” – PTT-NR Joint Venture – PTT Public Co., Ltd. and NR Instant Produce Co., Ltd. established Innobic (Asia) Co., Ltd. and Nove Foods Co., Ltd. in order to research, innovate, and distribute food products made from plant-based protein.
With governmental support, Thailand may very well achieve its goal of becoming one of the world’s top 10 food exporters.
What can the consumer expect?
These developments aren’t just for the producers and other agro-industry professionals. Consumers can expect all kinds of benefits from the BCG economy.
- High-quality organic produce transported to the market in record time for maximum freshness.
- New specialty foods produced at international standards for healthy snacking, delicious alternatives, and more.
- Sustainable food options from farms that rely on green energy, while remaining free of pesticides or animal cruelty.
The industry is moving forward in leaps and bounds. Consumers will get easy access to sustainable alternatives and will be able to better monitor how that food is produced. This will help eliminate our worrying tendencies toward an out of sight, out of mind mentality when it comes to the sustainability of our food.
The BCG economy is the way forward for Thailand. Public institutions are paving the way for the development of BCG-oriented businesses, which will not only help the owners and the workers, but also the investors upstream and the consumers downstream.
BCG means growth, better money, better produce, and better quality of life, all while protecting our planet. It is imperative that we remain at the forefront of the sustainability frontier, both for our development and for a brighter tomorrow. This is truly the future of food in Thailand.