In response to my previous posts, a few reasons have been put forward to Thailand’s low rice yields. These include heavy reliance on rain-fed farming, especially in the north-east; low adoption of improved varieties; cultivation of rice for quality and flavour rather than quantity; low (or perhaps excessively high) fertiliser use; and environmental degradation. This paper by Benjavan Rerkasem has some invaluable insights.

Another possible factor to consider has been suggested by a colleague: an increase in broadcast rice cultivation rather than transplanting. This 2006 report from Ubon Ratchathani notes that some farmers are reverting to broadcasting rice given labour shortages and high labour costs. Yields are substantially lower (between 210 and 300 kilograms per rai rather than 600 with transplanting) but so too are input costs.

So, even though Thailand’s land productivity may not be very impressive, there may have been substantial movements in labour productivity as less labour intensive forms of rice cultivation have been adopted (both as a result of techniques like broadcasting and as a result of mechanisation). Any suggestions about labour productivity data would be greatly appreciated.