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Cricket harvesting hopping along nicely for Thailand

28 Sep 2020

The fried crickets that you buy from a seller on the roadside are part of a booming agriculture industry that now raises and exports crickets worth 1 billion baht a year. 

As the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives supports farmers to diversify, village head Tueang Yarum, 45, is one of several farmers in the Northeast shifting to collecting crickets for sale. 

In this lower northeastern region, Ms. Tueang is one of 50 villagers in Ban Makha Tai, Tambon Ban Yang of Muang district, aided by the Buri Ram Provincial Agricultural Office and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives' Department of Agricultural Extension to grow crickets. 

In order to help farmers, she said the agencies had provided an initial 100,000 baht and wanted the village to become a cricket farming model. 

"Cricket products are a type of local food and they are becoming more common. We can grow and harvest around 80-100 kilograms of fresh crickets from one crop that takes 1.5-2 months to raise," Ms Tueang said. 

The project to help peasants making some extra money was initiated by agricultural organizations. She said the project has been going on for three years and provided farmers the anticipated revenue boost. 

Other village farmers who have taken to growing crickets, such as 49-year-old Khan Juanram, 57-year-old Eye Youyot, and 52-year-old Noi Thinaram, claim they are supporting the project because it has helped them gain more money. 

They said they want to increase their farms because supply outstrips demand in local village markets and fresh markets nearby. 

"I love feeding the crickets. "Ms Khan, who typically helps the village headwoman grow and pick crickets from her estate, said," Often we feed them pumpkins that enhance their flavor. 

Ms Eye and Ms Noi, however, suggest that crickets will fall victim to warm weather, since they like hot and dry air, and if temperatures are too muddy, they may die. 

They said they had not sent to Bangkok the crickets produced in their community.

Some insects sold in the city, mostly by roadside vendors who fried them for customers to have beverages as snacks, may come from other places in the Northeast. 

Farmers also developed a business unit on the manufacturing side to distribute the insects to consumers. They are now creating an online marketing site to support them to grow. 

"We have to feed them first with pumpkins before we harvest them because they'll taste better,' she said. 

In Isaan and the northeastern area, cricket farms are sponsored by the Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE), which is driving farmers into e-commerce and marketing and developing a demand for new sources of protein. 

Officials took part in a recent conference in Khon Kaen Province entitled, 'The Food Sector in the Potential: The Potential of the Northeast.' 

At the gathering, attended by the Federation of Thai Industries, Khon Kaen University, Maha Sarakham University, the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodities and Food Standards, and the Livestock Department, the northeastern cricket-to-food industry was addressed. 

Department of Agriculture and Cooperatives officials said workers were focused on farmers to boost the quality of cricket farms to gain more customer trust in the production process. 

Thai cricket exports are common in foreign markets where demand, especially in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and China, is increasing by 23 percent a year. 

Moreover, since they are a decent source of cheap protein, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is still urging individuals to eat crickets. The crickets can be packaged or handled to meet the preferences of clients in a range of new, roasted, frozen, and crispy formats. 

Meanwhile, in the Northeast, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is hoping to increase cricket production. 

In order to grow three varieties of crickets, farmers have shared money. Thongkham (golden), thongdaeng (copper), and the thonglai or sading bullfrog species are among the common strains. They are formed primarily in the provinces of Khon Kaen, Kalasin, Nakhon Phanom, Buri Ram, and Maha Sarakham. 

According to the ministry, there were more than 20,000 cricket farms nationally in 2018, with a processing potential of over 700 tonnes a year, valued over 1 billion baht a year. 

Farmers have an estimated expenditure expense of 41 baht / kilograms, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension. Feeding one crop takes 45-50 days, and farmers will harvest six crops a year, selling them for 80 baht/kg. They make a profit of around 163,464 baht/year on average. 

In line with the "Agricultural Goods, Economic, Marketing" strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture, which is in turn eager to grow insect-based agriculture in the Northeast Region, the OAE has incorporated the promotion of crickets. 

As part of the government's drive to promote Thailand as the world's kitchen, crickets can also be used as animal feed, which will further improve Thai agricultural exports.