Agriculture under the Royal Patronage of Thai Kings
During the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) the Government stepped up efforts to promote agriculture sytematically in terms of both a relevant body of knowledge, and technological advancement to the best of its ability in the light of colonial threats from the then Western powers. The kingís initiatives to promote and develop the nationalís agricultural sector first took shape when his majesty commanded the upgrading of the Bureau of Paddy Fields (Krom Na), which was part of the Jatusadom administrative system then, and was in charge of the management of farm affairs, to the Ministry of Agricultural Commerce (Krasuang Kaset Panichayakan) during the public adminisntrattion reform in B.E. 2435 (1892). This was to be followed by a further modernization drive, whereby the Ministry of Agricultural Commerce was transformed to the Ministry of Agricultural Administration (Krasuang Kasettratikan) in B.E. 2442 (1899).
The Ministry of Agricultural Administration has, henceforth, become the pivotal agency in the administration and overseeing of agricultural affairs on his majestyís behalf, ranging from the allocation of land for cultivation purposes (the issuance of land title deeds),the improvement of irrigation, the improvement of cultivation practices, the administration of agricultural studies, and the acquisition of foreign experts in the capacity of advisors to the ministry.
The first administrative building of the Minsitry of Agriculture (Prince Pradis Worakarnís palace) between
B.E. 2435-2499 (1892-1956).
King Chulalongkorn was fully aware of the fact that rice was the main factor in securing wealth for the country.
The emcouragement and and promotion of rice cultivation constituted the stepping stone toward prosperity and progress. Therefore, in a bid to promote irrigation his majesty commanded the founding of Krom Klong (the Department of Canals) to be in charge of canal dredging, expansion, and digging on an even larger scale. This drive was to serve double purposes Ė i.e. to provide water supplies for cultivation purposes, and to provide further means of transportation.In particular, the provision of land for the populace to earn their living on their own counted tremendously.
Moreover, as his majesty also discerned the importance of the contribution of the private sector, the Siam Canal and Farm Ditch Digging Company was then graciously awarded the concession allowing it to dig canals throughout the kingdom to open up new land space for cultivation purposes. This was a boon to Thailandís agricultural sector in the sense that the countryís irrigation and cultivation were substantially modernized. As a result of this canal extension and expansion for cultivation purposes, there was a total land area for cultivation purposes of more than 4 milion rai (approximately more than 640,000 hectares) under his majestyís reign. Rice exports also increased by more than 100 % in one decade from 3,530 harb (piculs) in B.E. 2418-2422 (1875-1879) to 7,250 harb (piculs) in B.E. 2433-2437 (1890-1894).
However, as increases in production requires technogical acquisition and learning, his majesty graciously commanded that the Ministry of Agricultural Administration organize a rice varieties competition for the first time, which was specifically for the neighbourhoods of Tung Luang and Rangsit Cannals, Tanyaburi District, Patumthani Province in B.E. 2450 (1807).
This competition was aimed at promoting the development of quality rice varieties to be used as seedlings. In the subsequent year, a second rice varieties competition was held at Wat Sutas Tepvararam Temple in the Capital City. After that more rice varieties competitions were organized throughout the kingdom.
His majestyís genius and visions in relation to Thailandís agricultural sector as reflected in his agricultural nurturing, promotion, and modernization were primarily put to good use through the strengthening of the countryís political security and economic prosperity.
All these royal contributions were clearly extended in the most gracious manner for the benefit of the populace.
King Chulalongkorn presided over the opening ceremony of the 1st Agricultural and Commercial Exposition held on 18 April B.E. 2453 (1910), at Sra Patum Palace. Members of the royal family, his majestyí civil and military retinue, members of the diplomatic corps, delegates of foreign governments, as well as members of the trade circles, and members of the general public were graciously allowed to have an audience with his majesty. Lord Praya Wongsanuprapan, Minister of Agricultural Administration read the ministerial report to his majesty.