October 6, 2003



Australia Seeks to Co-Invest with Thailand Partners After Its 100 Research Projects Completed


The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (Aciar) is now seeking to increase the benefits from 100 projects completed during the past two decades, after 20 years of co-operation with Thailand, says Aciar's director, Peter Core.


Aciar has worked with Thailand's Agriculture Ministry and universities in fields ranging from improving crop productivity and soil fertility to controlling animal and plant diseases and enhancing the efficiency of existing industries.


"Aciar's early programme of projects with Thailand had a strong focus on higher-end research and on building research capacity. Presently, the focus is on applications of part of that research for development, extending the results of earlier research to the end-users," said the director in Bangkok.


He said that Aciar was now seeking co-investment from Thailand's partners, especially through projects that were extending the results of earlier research to rural communities. An example is a project to develop optimum breeding characteristics for beef cattle in Tak province, where many local farmers are involved and are earning better income.


Aciar will concentrate on natural resource management in the northern and northeast regions, including the challenge of land degradation resulting from salinity and acidity.


Thailand and Australia have some common characteristics. Thus, the co-operation will also focus on improving the efficiency of production and marketing of agricultural commodities. Such ventures include extending shelf-life and developing quarantine systems for fruit and horticultural products.


Creating understanding of the scientific basis for quarantine was significant for future bilateral co-operation, particularly once both countries begin implementing a planned free trade agreement, says the director.


Australia has some of the world's strictest quarantine rules, intended to protect the many species of flora and fauna unique to the continent.


Aciar was established as a separate part of Australia's development assistance programme in 1982 and began to co-operate with Thailand a year later.


The director further clarified that projects in Thailand accounted for almost 15% of the 750 projects Aciar had funded since 1983, with contributions exceeding AU$50 million during the period. At present, there are 20 active projects in various parts of Thailand and eight more proposed.