Thailand’s population in 2013 was about 67 million people (World Bank, 2014). The country is classified as an upper middle income country by the World Bank with the gross national income per capita of USD 4,210 in 2011 (World Bank, 2011). Thailand’s high economic growth of 8-9% per year during the late 1980s and early 1990s was interrupted by the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997-1998 (World Bank, 2014). The GDP growth has since remained at 4.5% at an annual average over the period 2000-2012 (ADB, 2014).
Thailand has been regarded as a development success story, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction. Poverty in the country fell from 21% in 2000 to around 12.6% in 2012 (UNDP, 2014). However, regional differences remain, with over 80% of the country’s 7.3 million poor living in rural areas in 2013 (UNDP, 2014). Some regions—particularly the North and Northeast—and some ethnic groups lag greatly behind others and the benefits of economic success are not shared equally. Income inequality and lack of equal opportunities persist (UNDP, 2014).
Agriculture is still one of the main sources of the national income. The sector currently employs about 39% of Thailand’s workforce, and contributes to 11% of GDP (ADB, 2014). As it would be expected in an industrialising economy, the growth of agriculture has been modest at 2.8% annually averaged over the period 2000-2012. Livestock plays an important role in agricultural sector, accounting for 22% of agricultural GDP (Office of Agricultural Economics, 2014). Cattle raising has been identified as 1 of 14 main products in Thai agriculture.
Traditionally, cattle and buffaloes were raised by smallholders for draught purposes, transportation and for manure to be used as fertiliser. However, as mechanisation has replaced draught animals, small farmers have become increasingly specialised in beef production.
Thailand was a net importer of beef cattle up until 2008 as the domestic production had not been able to meet local demand. Thus, the majority of cattle flows were from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to Thailand. However, since 2008, the direction of cattle flows has been reversed due to strong demand for beef cattle from China and Vietnam (Bourgeois-Lüthi, 2010). Thailand has become an exporter and a transit country for cattle movement between Myanmar and Vietnam/China.