Last night SBS television news in Australia featured a story on buffalos in Thailand. According to CNN’s Dan Rivers, farmers in northern Thailand are turning to buffalos to plough their fields instead of tractors. He interviewed a local farmer, Jile Songkasri, who said that high fuel prices and the bad economy had encouraged him to dust off his old plough and harness up a buffalo. The story also featured a rather up-beat buffalo trader who said that she could not keep up with demand and a tractor owner whose business outlook was grim and who kept his fuel supply under lock and key.
It’s a nice story, in a folksy sufficiency sort of way, but I am a bit sceptical. Ploughing with buffalos is very time consuming and I suspect that only those with ample time on their hands (and relaxed agricultural schedules) will be taking it up. And there are the costs and inconveniences of supervising and feeding the buffalos. A bit of ploughing in the interim, perhaps, but I suspect that a good number of these beasts are destined to end up as larb.
But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps this bovine trickle will turn into a flood as Thai agriculture responds to unprecedented energy prices. If any New Mandala readers have local information on this latest trend, I would love to hear it.