Mitr Phol Group is transforming Thailand’s agriculture into a dust-free sector, emphasizing advantages of ‘modern agriculture’ according to ‘Mitr Phol modern farm’ that promotes effectiveness in quality and products. The company already confirmed the decrease of burnt sugar cane while the fresh one reached up to 99%. At the same time, sustainable profession and environment are promoted among Thai farmers. They will eventually become smart farmers able to apply digital technology to add more values to sugar cane. In so doing, Thailand’s agricultural sector will be able to compete in global business. To buy 380,000 tons of cane leaves and straws, Mitr Phol will invested 380 million Baht as a way to encourage local farmers to reduce burning sugar cane, the major cause of PM 2.5 smog.
Mr. Buntoeng Vongkusolkit, the Mitr Phol Group’s Chairman, revealed that the agricultural sector was regarded as a cause of PM 2.5 smog owing mainly to burning agricultural products or biomass leftovers during the harvest season, particularly straws, corncob or sugar cane. To solve the problem sustainably, in the harvest season of 2020/2021, sugar mills of Mitr Phol Group in Suphan Buri, Singburi, Khon Kaen, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Loei and Amnart Charoen has launched a program to buy sugar cane leaves and straws from local farmers. Each ton costs 1,000 Baht (The on-site price). The leaves and straws will serve as raw materials for biomass electricity generating. This program started on 1 December 2020 and will end on 15 March 2021.
Nonetheless, one must accept that Thailand has for the recent years been facing labor shortage in agriculture, resulting some local farmers opting for burning agricultural materials during the harvest season so that they are able to collect crops in time. Burning causes loss of product quality and affects soil fertility. Many concerned sectors are attempting to solve this problem, and a solution is to change conventional agriculture to modern one, starting from planning to grow, maintain and harvest crops, all of which require innovation, technology as well as medium and small agricultural machines to replace human beings. Doing so will enhance effectiveness, reduce capital costs and protect environment.
“Mitr Phol Group has promoted a way to modern cane farming according to “Mitr Phol Modern Farm” for Thai farmers for 5-6 years. As a result, the amount of burnt sugar cane received by the company has constantly decreased. The Mitr Phu Khiew sugar mill in Chaiyaphum received up 99% of fresh cane,” explained Mr. Buntoeng.
Moreover, the company provided knowledge to farmers continuously so that sustainable and environmentally prioritized agriculture will enable farmers to gain most benefits in terms of product quality and income apart from protecting environment, balancing the ecosystem and reducing use of chemical substances.
In addition, adding more values to biomass materials for agriculture like sugar cane leaves and straws, which are used to cover soil to prevent weeds and maintain humidity as they are organic ingredients to soil, includes using them as a supplement fuel for biomass electricity generating. Doing so will promote use of clean energy and reduce fossil fuel. When local farmers understand that the biomass materials are priceless, boost more income and jobs, they will stop harvesting sugar cane by burning it.
However, cooperation is needed from every sector concern, especially governmental organizations like Industry Ministry, Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, Energy Ministry, along with local offices, private companies and farmers themselves. Once the cooperation is strengthened and law is seriously implemented on banning sugar cane burning, Thailand will be able to mobilize its economy along with stainable protection of environment.
Mr. Buntoeng stated that he viewed modern agriculture as major transition to increase effectiveness to Thai agriculture until it was able to compete globally in terms of quality and product amount, so we should encourage local framers to change themselves to smart ones who know how to manage digital technology and realize the importance of environment. Unless they adjust themselves, the current smog will become worse and local agriculture will face drought or floods caused by the present global warming and unstable climate, not to mention an increasing challenge of the world’s agricultural industries which may affect products and income later.