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Up in Flames: How Thailand’s Stubble Burning Crisis Risks a Total Collapse of Its Food Industry! Will the Government Step Up to Avert Imminent Disaster?

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In the lush landscapes of Nonthaburi province, a firefighter wrestles against scorching flames set ablaze on a paddy field. His efforts, mirrored by countless others across Thailand, create a striking image and bring to the forefront an alarming issue — crop residue burning. A common practice amongst farmers, these uncontrolled burns are making significant contributions to the nation’s carbon emissions, leading to increased concerns on both health and economic fronts.

The burgeoning cry for a solution to this detrimental practice has been spearheaded by the Thai Food Mill Association (TFMA) and its deputy secretary-general, Pornsil Patcharintanakul. His insights shed light on the domino effect these otherwise commonplace fires have on Thailand’s standing with the European Union (EU), and in turn, its overall economic health.

Pornsil communicates compellingly that the adverse effects of stubble burning—specifically the production of harmful PM2.5 particles— are not confined to Thailand’s northern regions alone. Nebulous clouds of toxic dust generated from the burning crops spill across borders affecting neighboring countries too. Whether from natural wildfires or intentional crop burning, these hotspots are a source of regional distress, necessitating swift government-to-government intervention.

Yet, for Thailand to credibly advocate for such changes, it must first address its internal situation. As it is now, the country merely recommends farmers to limit their burning activities and to do so within specified periods. This lukewarm measure seems non-committal at best, and ineffective at worst.

In contrast, Pornsil proposes an enforcement of the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standard, a certification system outlining necessary procedures for sustainable food production. Not only does compliance with the GAP standard promise safe and wholesome food but also champions environmentally conscious farming. Most notably, it calls for an outright ban on stubble burning, which could be pivotal in reducing the nation’s CO2 emissions.

The urgency of this matter is underscored by the fact that the EU, a critical trading partner of Thailand, has begun implementing the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The CBAM places a financial value on the carbon emissions produced during the manufacture of imported goods, a consequence of which is a potential surge in the cost of Thai exports.

Thailand boasts a reputation as a prime food exporter. Yet, this position can be undermined if its production processes are tied to high levels of carbon emissions. Subsequent CBAM-based price adjustments could harm Thailand’s competitiveness on the global stage, sparking worrying implications for its food industry and economy at large.

To safeguard Thailand’s interests, Pornsil shares that the TFMA is in active pursuit of a dialogue with the agricultural minister. The goal is to put forward concrete measures to mitigate such risks, ensuring that the nation not merely survives, but thrives in this changing global landscape.

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