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More than just a nutritious meal: “Thai Kitchen to the World” for Sustainable Food Security and Public Health

 

Promoting Thailand’s strengths in the agricultural sector and abundance in food ingredients, which have turnedThailand into a food production hub and consistently motivated Thailand to elevate itsfood standards

The well-known phrase “Thai Kitchen to the World” has been used as part of the Foreign Ministry’s policy to promote Thai cuisine worldwide by building on Thailand’s strengths in the agricultural sector. Thailand’s abundant agricultural resources has led it to become a food production centre for the world, with related agencies consistently working to elevate food safety and hygiene in line with international standards. Thailand’s innovative chefs have experimented with local flavours from across the country to ensure that a wide variety of food can cater to everyone’s different taste buds. The resultant diverse culinary palette has made Thai food popular across the globe and inspired public and private organizations to collaborate in systematically sourcing Thailand’s food products to the international market. Their hope is for Thai food to open doors for foreigners who are keen to learn more about Thai culture and traditions, and for the scrumptious meals served overseas to act as an invitation for more people to visit Thailand. 

Since 2016, the Department of International Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been operating the “Thai Kitchen to the World” project. The aim is to promote access for Thai food related business into the world market, and to strengthen Thai entrepreneurs’ economic competitiveness overseas as part of Thailand’s proactive economic diplomacy. To drive this project forward, budget has been allocated to Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Consulates-General around the world, and Heads of Missions have been appointed as “Thai Kitchen Ambassadors” to carry out various activities. Thus far, more than 200 events have been organized in Europe, the US, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Activities to promote “Thai Kitchen to the World” have been diverse. They range from raising public awareness on Thai food, to discussions on obstacles to exporting Thai food, promoting Thai food distributors overseas, and expanding business opportunities for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) in the food, agriculture, and food innovation industries. Activities also focus on capacity building and elevating the skills of Thai chefs, as well as further increasing the popularity of Thai food abroad. The aim is to ultimately promote sustainability in the agricultural and food sector, to elevate people’s livelihoods, and to share the joy of savouring culinary delights with friends of Thailand around the world.

 In this endeavour, Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Thai Consulates-General have introduced many fun, interactive activities to their host country, such as cooking demonstrations with well-known Thai chefs, training hotel staff on the preparation of Thai food, and organizing Thai Food Festivals in collaboration with local authorities. The Thai Missions overseas have also supported Thai entrepreneurs in attending foreign trade exhibitions, facilitated discussions on collaboration with food institutions overseas, and promoted Thai food online via social media influencers in other countries. 

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has led to changing behaviour and battered the world economy, inevitably forcing people to adapt their lifestyles and for businesses to adapt their operations management. It has also underlined the importance of public health and safety, as factors that would steer the economy forward, and enable nations to rapidly overcome challenges and seek opportunities.

In Thailand’s case, the COVID-19 situation provided opportunities to export Thailand’s agricultural and food products, as several countries became concerned with food safety and food security more than ever. In many countries, the people’s need for agricultural and food products for domestic consumption has been on the rise due to obstacles in exporting products from flight cancellations and barred international airfreight. However, sea freight was still able to operate and road freight was partially affected. According to data from the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, Ministry of Commerce, the pandemic’s overall impact on Thailand’s export of agricultural and food products was limited. Exports of some products were even able to expand, such as rice, vegetables, frozen and processed fruit, fresh and processed chicken, pet food, and seasonings. Thailand’s biggest export markets include the US, China, CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam), Russia, and Central Asia.

In addition to the export sector, the “Thai Kitchen to the World” project has also assisted other sectors during the COVID-19 situation. Most notably, it has encouraged businesses to adapt their operation plans and events in response to the New Normal under the pandemic by increasing the use of online platforms to promote Thai food products. For example, the Royal Thai Embassy in Beijing has cooperated with a popular food delivery application in China, and encouraged Thai food merchants to join this application, in order to promote Thai food deliveries to Chinese consumers. The Royal Thai Consulate-General in Munich organized a training event on local business regulations and public relations on Thai food via social media to boost the potential of Thai food restaurateurs in Germany.

 
"Cerebrating Songkran Festival with Thai street food" / photo: Royal Thai Embassy, Beijing

Thailand is aware that challenges will remain into the post COVID-19 era and has made it a mission to increase support for Thai kitchens abroad. This mission will focus on adding confidence in Thailand’s food production base and halal products, and expanding opportunities for the export of Thai agricultural and food products. Most importantly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will use “Innovation Diplomacy” to encourage entrepreneurs’ creativity and innovation in building confidence in Thailand’s food safety standards for public health and safety as we continue our fight against the pandemic. 

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