David Gibson Moore discussion with HE Pongpol Adireksarn in Bangkok
The global food industry currently is at a precarious juncture. Major challenges such as regional instability, global conflicts, water scarcity and climate change need to be addressed.
GCC countries have up to now been able to employ substantial economic resources to address the food security issue. In the future, the main challenge will arise through the disruption that could fully or partially block access to certain existing food imports. Diversification of sources of supply therefore becomes critical.
It was fascinating to discuss these issues with in the splendid surroundings of the Library at Central Embassy in Pathum Wan, Bangkok.
Pongpol’s father, Pramarn Adireksarn, was a Major-General of the Royal Thai Army who became a politician and co-founder of the conservative Thai Nation Party. His mother Charoen Adireksarn was a sister of Chatichai Choonhavan, Thailand’s prime minister from 1988 to 1991.
He has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister. He was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education from 2001 to 2003. Pongol subsequently retired from politics to pursue an industrial career and is currently Chairman of both TTL Industries, a quoted company, and Ubonratchatani Industry Co.
The latter company has as its mission to develop the infrastructure and economy of Ubon Ratchathani, the nation’s leading rice-producing province located in the Southeast of the Isaan region of Thailand. The province currently earns more than 10 billion baht a year from rice sales.
Agriculture remains the backbone industry of the country. Thai agriculture is one of the top global exporters for rice, sugar, and rubber, employing a third of the country’s workforce, using 40% of Thailand’s land area and contributing over 10% of its GDP. Rice-farming is deeply embedded into the country’s culture as well.
We discussed the possibility of increasing rice sales to the GCC. This could be of interest to all countries but especially to Saudi Arabia with its larger population and the opportunities now available following the recent resumption of diplomatic relations between the two counties.
There are also opportunities for the purchase of agricultural land in Thailand open to foreigner investors which could be of great interest.
We discussed the opportunities for processed food exports to the GCC countries as well as cooperation in agritech. Thailand has made great advances in this latter sector which is critical to much that is being undertaken to secure further agricultural supply in the GCC.
Finally we discussed the really big picture item of water exports to the GCC. Instead of returning empty why cannot the tankers be filled with fresh water? Obviously, some reconstruction of the tanks would be required but this could constitute a welcome alternative to expensive desalinated water that is currently the source of so much of the GCC’s supply.
In addition to all his other accomplishments, Pongpol is a well-known author. His novels include The Pirates of Tarutao, Rattanakosin and Until the Karma Ends. These have been written under the pen name of Paul Adirex and are all available on-line.
A truly fascinating conversation with great potential for enhancing commerce between Thailand and the GCC. A great deal of food for thought (no pun intended!) We will be actively working together to develop some of these opportunities.
(Ubon Ratchathani is one of the four major cities of Isaan (with Khorat/Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen), also known as the “big four of Isaan.” The city is on the Mun River in the southeast of the Isan region of Thailand and is located 615 km away from Bangkok. It is known as Ubon for short. The name means “royal lotus city”)