PANUPS: Pesticide Use in Thailand

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service

March 25, 1997

Pesticide Use in Thailand

Thailand is currently one of the biggest users of pesticides 
in the South Asia region. A project sponsored by the German 
Technical Aid Agency (GTZ) and the University Pesticide 
Policy Project is working with the Thai government to develop 
and implement a more effective regulatory framework for 
pesticide registration and use. The Pesticide Policy Project 
has pioneered important economic analyses of the full costs 
of pesticide use, including examining health and 
environmental costs. They have released a report that the 
Thai government will use to examine measures for policy 

According to the report, Thailand is a major market for 
pesticides with an annual growth rate between 1982 and 1992 
of 8.8%. Since that time, the market has continued to grow 
but at a somewhat slower rate. In 1994, sales amounted to 
US$247 million. The herbicide market has grown rapidly in 
recent years and is now 51% of sales. Insecticides are 38% of 
the market while fungicides account for 10%. 

Most pesticides are imported, and foreign companies hold the 
biggest market share. Of the pesticides that are imported, 
73% fall into World Health Organization categories Ia( 
extremely hazardous) and Ib (highly hazardous). The three 
main insecticides in use are the organophosphates 
monocrotophos, methamidophos and methyl parathion, all 
considered particularly hazardous under conditions of use in 
developing countries.

The study concludes that many cases of pesticide poisoning 
are never reported in Thailand and do not appear in 
statistics. For example, a 1985 study concluded that only 
2.4% of workers who have been poisoned by pesticides go to 
the hospital. Statistics from the Ministry of Public Health 
on occupational poisoning show a decrease from a high of 
5,154 in 1989 to 3,165 in 1994, although there has been no 
change in the type of pesticides used or the application 
technology.  The study estimated that there could be up to 
39,600 pesticide poisoning cases a year, with  total annual 
health costs of about 13 million Baht (US$507,800).

Researchers found that approximately one half of Thai farmers 
apply higher than recommended concentrations, do not pay 
attention to labels, wear no protective clothing and do not 
observe recommended intervals between spraying and harvest. 

Government studies of pesticide residues in food conducted 
between 1982 and 1985 found residues in 52% of 663 samples, 
including DDT in 39% and dieldrin in 15%. A 1993 survey by 
the National Environment Board found pesticide residues in 
all soil samples, 86% of water samples, 32% of fruit, 25% of 
vegetables and 17% of field crops. 

Insect resistance to pesticides has become a major problem, 
particularly in relation to the brown plant hopper in rice 
production. Pest resistance in vegetables has led to an 
overdosing of pesticides by up to eight times the recommended 
rate. A recent study concluded that vegetable growers accept 
that pests quickly build resistance, but see no alternatives.

Although there are no direct subsidies on pesticides in 
Thailand, a number of factors encourage pesticide use. Low 
import taxes have helped keep prices down. There is little 
independent information or training and the extension service 
focuses primarily of pesticide-based pest management. The 
government keeps a budget for emergency outbreaks of pests, 
generally using pesticides to contain the problem.

The Pesticide Policy Project study is important not only for 
providing key information on the pesticide situation in 
Thailand, but also for demonstrating the value of a 
methodological framework. Such a framework may be useful to 
other governments attempting to improve their infrastructure 
for handling chemicals, making investment decisions, and 
promoting safer alternatives.

Contact: Frauke Jungbluth, "Crop Protection Policy in 
Thailand: Economic and Political Factors Influencing 
Pesticide Use," Pesticide Policy Project, GTZ/University of 
Hannover, Publication Series No. 5, Hannover, December 1996. 
Fax (49-511) 762 2667.

Source: Pesticides News, March 1997. Pesticides News is a 
publication of The Pesticides Trust, Eurolink Business 
Centre, 49 Effra Road, London, SW2 1BZ, England; fax (441 71) 
274-8895; email pesttrust@gn.apc.org.

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