Thailand considers corn import ban amid pollution concerns

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/lamyai
© GettyImages/lamyai

Related tags Thailand air pollution Corn

Thailand may implement a ban on corn imports from neighboring countries associated with agricultural burning, a move aimed at curbing air pollution, an official announced on Wednesday.

Government spokesperson Chai Wacharonke said such a ban would align with Thailand's obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO), reported Reuters.

Thai lawmakers are deliberating on the Clean Air Act, which seeks to regulate pollution from various sectors including agriculture, factories, and transportation; the urgency of such measures is underscored by the recent hazardous levels of air quality in northern provinces bordering Myanmar and Laos.

GAP standards

Recent reports have highlighted prolonged toxic haze episodes in Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, primarily attributed to uncontrolled wildfires and agricultural burning.

Within Thailand, the Thai Food Mill Association (TFMA) has been advocating​ for the swift adoption of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards to address the alarming levels of fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5) linked to improper corn farming practices in the northern region.

Last month TFMA also stressed its readiness to collaborate with neighboring countries, offering innovative solutions to combat haze spreading across national boundaries.

Over the past decade, that industry association has discouraged corn farming in ecologically sensitive areas prone to illegal clearing and burning. The organization argues that expedited implementation of GAP standards can mitigate pollution, enhance production efficiency, reduce costs, and promote sustainable farming practices, ensuring the well-being of both growers and the ecosystem.

Corn growing in northern Thailand

The expansion of corn cultivation in Thailand's northern provinces has been significant, driven by its use as a primary ingredient in animal feed. However, a study in Resources, Environment, and Sustainability​ highlights the shift from traditional agricultural practices to chemical-intensive monocropping, leading to environmental challenges such as deforestation, soil erosion, and annual burning of corn fields.

CP Foods takes action

Bangkok Produce Merchandising Public Company Limited, a subsidiary of food and feed giant CP Foods, recently outlined the actions it is taking to tackle the persistent challenge of PM 2.5 dust pollution. The business is spearheading a collaborative campaign involving governmental bodies, business partners, and farmers aimed at dissuading farmers from resorting to crop burning as they prepare for the upcoming planting season.

The alliance hopes to significantly reduce and eliminate burning practices within its corn supply chain.

With a focus on responsible management of the corn supply chain for animal feed, the program aligns with the Charoen Pokphand Group's commitment to refraining from sourcing corn from deforested areas or regions prone to crop burning, maintains the subsidiary.

Integral to the initiative is the dissemination of daily satellite imagery updates pinpointing hotspots to local corn collectors, enabling targeted monitoring of burning activities. In instances of detected burning, company officials and partners swiftly visit the site to engage with farmers and verify the incidents. Repeat offenders face a suspension of corn purchases from the implicated plot for one year.

In addition to halting crop burning and mitigating smoke and haze sources, Bangkok Produce says its F. Farm app further supports corn growers by providing access to essential information such as rainfall, temperature, and fertilization tips; such resources, it says, are aimed at improving productivity and income while promoting a responsible corn supply chain for animal feed.

Related topics Regulation CP Foods Asia Safety Grains

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