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Weeding out hype in Phuket’s health-conscious market

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Weeding out hype in Phuket’s health-conscious market | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Health and environment are two buzzwords that are being heard a lot nowadays across the globe and Phuket is no exception.

Health-conscious segments of local markets continue to grow and an increasing number of producers are looking to exploit this consumer base. What was once a niche market has turned into an ‘eco green everything’ fad.

Indeed, many consumers, producers and suppliers, will struggle to explain the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘chemical-free’, among other things.

In an exclusive interview with the Phuket Gazette, Martin H.J. Smetsers, Managing Director of Pura Organic Foods Limited, shed some light on the topic.

“The Thai government is trying to stimulate organic farming but unfortunately, clarity is still a major issue,” said Martin, whose company is a leading organic food distributor in Phuket and southern Thailand,

“The term ‘chemical-free’ cannot be compared to organic farming as chemicals are used from the time of seeding until a short period before harvest, when the use stops. The chemicals and pesticides used ‘disappear’ during this final period. However, since chemicals were used for 90 % of the growth period, such produce is subject to damage and other alterations in taste, color, shape, size and nutritional value,” he explained.

“I’ve seen a study that states that non-organic food has lost 50 per cent of its nutritional values over the last 50 years and in order to get the same nutritional value that our grandparents did 50 years ago we must eat twice as much today. With Organic produce this is less the case,” he added.

From its base in Thalang, Martin explained that Pura Organic supplies a wide array of fresh and truly organic produce to hotels, resorts and restaurants in Phuket and the southern region.

With a focus on high-quality organic produce, it distributes vegetables such as kale, green long beans, red long beans, Chinese radish, lettuce, pak choy, all kinds of lettuce, wild rocket, regular rocket and winged peas; herbs, including four different kinds of basils and coriander; and fruits such as papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, longan and mangosteen; in addition to organic dairy products such as milk (cow, buffalo and goat) and cheese, eggs and chicken.

“In total, Pura now carries over 800 organic products. One of our main local suppliers is the Thanyamundra Organic Farm in Surat Thani, next to Khao Sok National Park,” Martin said, noting that the organic farm is certified under the Agricultural Certification of Thailand (ACT) standard.

“This particular farm is on a 60 rai parcel of land located about two hours north of Phuket, and is attached to the 10-rai Thanyamundra Organic Resort which was recently chosen by Agoda as one of Asia’s Top 10 Eco-Boutiques,” he said.

“As our associate, the farm sells us their entire harvest, which we then distribute throughout the south, mostly in Phuket,” he explained.

While the company sources a lot of its fresh produce locally, its entire supply network comprises a total of 40 sources nationwide including those in Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Mae Hong Son provinces, Mr Smetsers added.

“Pura has had some problems due to a logistic issue caused by the recent flooding, but since our main product lines are fresh produce, most of this is flown directly into Phuket from all over Thailand,” he said.

Martin went on to explain that while official certification and reputation is important, it cannot be relied on unconditionally.

“We initially believe and trust our organic sources, but try to make it a point to personally visit their production and distribution facilities to see if they meet Pura’s quality requirements,” he said.

“Over the past 14 months, we have taken some products with certified organic sources off our list simply because after visiting the farm we didn’t feel comfortable with the quality and standard observed,” he added.

“On the other hand we feel very proud to carry products from non- certified sources who have shown us comfortable levels of organic correctness. Pura Organic Foods Ltd is very willing to help the small farmer who makes an effort to be organic and whose efforts are often pressured by unfair trade practices,” he added.

Martin himself has been eating organic food for over 20 years and said he has not had to take a single day off for sick leave.

Pura Organic will soon open its new shop and office, for more information , see W: puraorganic.org

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Fish sauce excluded from Thailand’s proposed tax on salty foods

May Taylor

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Fish sauce excluded from Thailand’s proposed tax on salty foods | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Cook’s Illustrated

Thailand’s Excise Department and Public Health Ministry is considering a levy on salty foods in an attempt to tackle the sodium-rich diets of Thai citizens, and the health consequences.

The director general of the Excise Department, Patchara Anuntasilpa says the tax would be calculated based on the amount of salt in a product, with the proposal being sent to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana by year end.

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years.[1][2]:234 It is used as a staple seasoning in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly south east Asia and Taiwan. Following widespread recognition of its ability to impart a savoury umami flavor to dishes, it has been embraced globally by chefs and home cooks.

“If the tax is approved, we will allow entrepreneurs one or two years to reduce the salt content and launch a less-salty version of their product.”

The World Health Organisation and the UN both recommend taxing foods with a high salt content, saying increased sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, cancer and kidney and heart disease.

The Nation reports however, that while the proposal is to levy the tax on frozen and canned foods, along with processed items such as instant noodles, seasoning such as fish sauce and snacks like potato chips would be excluded.

The Federation of Thai Industries has pledged to cooperate with the government’s effort to improve the health of Thailand’s citizens, but its head Wisit Limluecha says he is not in favour of taxing popular seasonings, snacks, frozen or instant foods.

“Research has found that these foods represent only 20% of what we eat each day, and everyone has different eating habits, so the better solution would be to advise consumers on how to eat healthily.”

Wisit warns that the tax may damage the country’s competitiveness in the food sector both overseas and in Thailand, where imported products are easily available. He also voices concern that small businesses will suffer if unable to afford ingredient and packaging changes.

SOURCE: The Nation

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Thai Airways must modify rehabilitation plan to survive: Airline President | The Thaiger

PHOTO: gta5-mods.com

“Thai Airways will have to modify its rehabilitation plans to survive in the face of tight competition.” This frank admission by the airline’s president Sumet Damrongchaith.

The national carrier is now carrying a total debt of over 2.45 billion baht and losses of more than 20 billion, despite being able to reduce its debts by 48 billion baht over the past five years.

Sumet says the first step will be to restructure the airline’s management and finances as well as reconsider its plan to spend 1.5 billion baht on 38 new aircraft. He admits the biggest problem is that Thai Airways has low capital but a high debt-to-equity ratio of eight times.

In order to maintain its competitiveness, the carrier will have to reduce its debts versus assets and boost its working capital with support from the ministries of Transport and Finance. Hence, it plans to borrow approximately 3.2 billion baht in fiscal 2020 in line with the budget limit set by the Office of Public Debt Management.

This loan will be taken to support the airline’s investments as well as for its working capital, to update equipment and maintain existing aircraft, but will not be used to repay old debts.

The Nation also reports that the airline is also concerned about maintaining its liquidity because at the end of June this year, its revolving credit line stood at 13.4% of the total revenue forecast for 2019.

Sumet admits that, though the original rehabilitation plan has a set framework, the situation has now changed due to the appreciation of the baht, so in order to achieve goals, the work method has to be redesigned, such as finding a way to procure more passengers.

“We are now in the process of analysing new markets.”

Meanwhile, Thai Aiways’ board chairman Aek-Niti Nitithan-Praphas says the board is reconsidering plans to procure a new fleet taking into consideration the state of the global and domestic economies as well as the US-China trade war.

“The growth of the tourism industry and the airlines’ financial status needs to be reviewed in line with strong competition and routes that are no longer popular. It’s better to carefully revise the plan instead of exposing the airline to greater risk. The target should be reduce expenses by 20%.”

Meanwhile, Thai Airways aims to boost the sale of tickets, find ways of increasing online shopping of duty-free goods and reducing unnecessary expenses by 10%without affecting the quality of service in the last three months of 2019.

The airline is also negotiating the option of cutting down overtime expenses and is looking into curbing losses incurred by it’s semi-budget offshoot Thai Smile by increasing its flying hours to 10.5 hours daily. These steps are expected to help the airline reach breakeven point in the short term.

The airline is also considering long-term goals such roping in more passengers by offering greater benefits to Royal Orchid Plus members, focusing on digital marketing, retiring non-performing assets as well as increasing revenue from related businesses such as kitchens and aircraft repair centres.

SOURCE: The Nation

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