Rice is a way of life in rural Thailand. Commercial farmers sell rice and many local villagers lease land to grow rice for personal use. Rice is served with almost every meal in rural Thailand. Noodles run a distant second as the main component of a meal, so a common question would be “Rice or noodles?” when someone asks you what you would like to eat. Even more common would be to ask “What would you like with your rice?”
Rice is a main source of income for both farmers, and villagers. Laborers earn the Thai minimum wage working the land during planting and harvest seasons. This meager wage (around $10.00 U.S. a day) must sustain them, as it is their main source of yearly income. For the farmers it is not much better. Those that produce rice for personal and family use must compensate the workers, either with a daily wage, or a share in the harvest, or both.
Those that produce rice commercially also pay for labor to plant the rice, and in most cases pay for harvesting machines and operators to collect the rice for processing. This year has been unusually difficult for commercial producers as rice prices are at a 13 month low, cutting into already meager profits.
Most farmers that produce rice for personal and family consumption rely on methods that have been used for centuries to produce rice. Everything is done by hand. From planting to harvesting and finally milling the rice, every step is labor intensive, time consuming and hard work. Machine harvesting a group of fields may take a day, while hand harvesting the same amount of land by hand may take many days or weeks, depending on how many laborers the small farmer is willing to hire. The result is enough rice to last one year.
Rice produced commercially may end up being stored at a processing plant for an extended amount of time, until it is sold on the open market. Small family producers live from year to year, from one harvest season to the next, storing rice in their homes for daily use.
Please enjoy the slide show below or visit our website to view or license an image by following the link: The 2016 Rice Harvest