Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, has become a major production base for Japanese rice because of its climate and locally developed strains of japonica varieties with qualities similar to those grown in Japan.
Chiang Rai farmers use a machine to transplant rice seedlings 20 days old. Japanese rice requires a precise program for transplantation and fertilization, some Thai farmers find it difficult to meet. But the work back generously to the sale of Japanese rice of 11 baht per kilo instead of eight Thai baht rice paddy.
With an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius in winter, the province and some others in the North are suitable for planting short-grain Japonica rice.
The strain was grown on more than 20,000 rai in Chiang Rai alone, producing about 10. 000 tonnes per year to meet growing demand as more Japanese come to Thailand, said Piyapan Srikoom, a researcher at the Chiang Rai Research Center on Rice.
The Agriculture Department first successfully developed varieties on the basis of a variety of strains of Japan in the 1980’s. At that time, the amount of Japanese investment in Thailand was growing rapidly thanks to the favorable investment policies and low wages.
Research on Japanese rice cultivation in the country began in 1964 in the middle of rice in Phan district of Chiang Rai, but it was not until 1987 that the center was able to develop strains with similar characteristics and koshihikari sasanishiki two popular varieties of Japanese rice. Pilot programs with these strains were obtained an average of 700 kilograms per rai. They were certified as KhaoYipun DOA1 and DOA2 in 1995.
The strains are not sensitive to photoperiod and grow well in the second season when the weather is cooler. His short grain, soft and sticky texture when cooked are good for making sushi rice, while many varieties Thai long grain rice from the lack of those properties.
“These strains can be grown in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phayao, but are packed in Chiang Rai, whether Thai companies or joint ventures with Japanese investors,” said Mr. Piyapan.
Jiraporn Rice Mill Co is the largest provider in the province, with about 10,000 rai of farms shrank in several northern provinces.
“The hardest part is what farmers pay attention to the crop, such as Japanese rice requires a precise schedule,” said Sanan Supawan, owner of a mill normally, rice seedlings 20 days old, need to be transplanted, with a fixed schedule to add fertilizer.
“Sometimes the farmers leaving the list, but the higher payment for Japanese rice encouraged change their habits,” said
Farmers pay 11 baht per kilo of Japanese rice, compared with about eight baht for rice paddy. Milled rice is sold to suppliers for export or resale of Japanese restaurants in Thailand, mostly chains like Oishi.
To manage production efficiently and maintain quality of rice, Rice Mill Jiraporn requests that buyers place purchase orders a year in advance.
“Grain quality will decrease if kept too long, especially in hot and humid conditions in Thailand,” says Mr. Sanan.
In general, buyers can ensure the quality of rice is the same as what is grown in Japan.
It is expected that the popularity of Japanese food in Thailand and the increase in the Japanese population in the country will increase demand.
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok reported 1,313 Japanese companies as members of the chamber in April 2010. It is estimated that some 50,000 Japanese live in Thailand.
Kasikornbank reports the Japanese restaurant market was valued at 8 billion baht last year and is expected to reach 10 million next year, based on the expansion of 10-15% per year.
There are over 1,000 Japanese restaurants in Thailand, the fifth highest number after the U.S., China, Korea and Taiwan.