Bangkok: ploughing ceremony to combat crisis
by Weena Kowitwanij
Every year in Bangkok the rice ploughing ceremony takes place. An ancient rite to give an auspicious beginning to the new planting season today has become an opportunity for the government to broach the subject of the economic crisis hitting the nation.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn presided over the annual rice the ploughing ceremony near the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  Organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC), the annual ploughing ceremony takes place in May to augur abundant rains for the coming harvest, this year offering the perfect opportunity for reflections on economic questions linked to agriculture in this time of crisis.

Thailand is the 6th largest rice producing country in the world and the 1st for exports, with an estimated 7 million tones each year.

The rite coincides with the beginning of the rainy season and traditionally forecasts the quantity of rainfall during the year, thus determining the abundance or lack thereof of the harvest and along with it the entire nation’s economic prosperity.

The Ploughing Ceremony is of Braham origin and it was practiced even before the birth of Buddha who is believed to have taken part in the ceremony choosing the “Ploughing Lord”. Yesterday the king appointed Jalan Thadakannasutra, Minister for Agriculture to fill the role.   The Ploughing Lord is offered a choice of three lengths of cloth, if his choice is the longest one, there will be little rain during the coming year; if is the shortest.  The forecast for this year indicates average rainfall, correspondent to a medium length cloth.  After that bulls are presented with different cereals and drink, which influences the crop outcome.

After the ceremony, Princess Makachakri Sirindhorn met with farmers, to discuss problems and difficulties linked to agricultural production. "The current economic crisis is the main problem for people worldwide, including the people of Thailand”, noted the princess.  She encouraged the farmers to organise themselves into working groups to strengthen their production capacities and share experience and knowledge.

 Despite the importance of agricultural production, younger generations prefer factory work to field labour and as a result the average age in the farming community has risen to 50.  For this reason the Thai government through MOAC, has set up a development project to combat the economic crisis and encourage new generations in recognising the importance and potential of this ancient and precious work.