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The Transformation from Opium Poppy to Arabica Coffee Bean growing in Northern Thailand – a triumph for Public Policy, Entrepreneurship or Market Forces?
This article considers the transformation from opium poppy cash cropping in Northern Thailand to sustainable Arabica coffee bean farming. It reports on an empirical study of Akha ethnic farmers from the Chiang Rai area of the infamous Golden Triangle. The study’s research questions asked of individual farmer’s motivations to transition to Arabica and why they continue with Arabica production? Maybe that question is simply answered by enhanced income. Parts of Northern Thailand have excellent terroir for production of quality Arabica bean. However, factors have been involved that were neither commercial nor natural in origin. These were political factors. A God-King championed movement away from opium poppy cultivation. A philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy was developed and mobilised, giving a general development path for Thailand and one consistent with its Buddhist majority religion which could undergird planning and planting specifics. A political, military and judicial apparatus was operationalised to the same end, sometimes violently with forced resettlement of tribal minority peoples, and opium poppy cultivation was made illegal. In this mix it became reasonable to consider what part entrepreneurship has played in the rise of Northern Thai Arabica production. Ultimately the research pointed to straightforward market forces being the preponderant element in farmers’ moves toward Arabica production and why they have stayed with Arabica production. However, farmers have not only considered current income but also longer-term sustainability of the business and, thereby, their ability to remain at their present location. Strong repudiation of the traditional Akha semi-nomadic lifestyle was an important finding of this study. Self-help, community action, has begun to find a role in the sustainability of a static lifestyle
Akha, Arabica, coffee, community action, minority peoples, Northern Thailand, sufficiency economy, Thailand
Citation: Mark Azavedo (2023). The Transformation from Opium Poppy to Arabica Coffee Bean growing in Northern Thailand – a triumph for Public Policy, Entrepreneurship or Market Forces? Horizon J. Hum. Soc. Sci. Res. 5 (2), 23–36. https://doi.org/10.37534/bp.jhssr.2023.v5.n2.id1217.p23
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