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31 Aug 2021

Econ Digest

5 Thai crops that should be promoted for the processing of plant-based alternative protein products


        Alternative proteins have become the food trend of the future as more health-conscious and environmentally-conscious consumers turn to meat substitutes. KResearch is of the view that Thailand has numerous crops that can be processed into plant-based protein foods of the future, namely green beans, sunflower sprouts and black sesame seeds, brown “Hom Mali" rice and straw mushrooms, based on the required analysis results, which include: 1) Such crops must have high-protein that is similar to the protein in meat; 2) They must have potential in terms of productivity, can be sold at a good price, have a short growing period and have a native Thai species; and 3) They are being supported by the government, with the aim of promoting sustainable produce supplies, generating more income for Thai farmers, and creating plant-based alternative protein food products of the future. In addition, these alternative protein sources can reduce the use of soybeans, currently a protein source that Thailand has to almost exclusively import, thus helping to alleviate the issue of unsustainable supply.     

        Opportunities to increase the yield of each potential crop lie in: 1) Developing high yielding cultivars, namely green beans, black sesame seeds and brown “Hom Mali” rice; 2) Their ableness to be planted during dry seasons, in rotation with rice or mixed with other crops, applicable for green beans, black sesame and straw mushrooms; 3) The application of agricultural technology to increase productivity, for example by using agricultural drones or using automatic harvesters for brown “Hom Mali” rice or by using greenhouse systems for straw mushrooms and sunflower sprouts; 4) Their ableness to be planted in areas with limited space such as in  urban areas or condominiums, applicable for sunflower sprouts, straw mushrooms. However, diseases and pests must be monitored, especially for black sesame and straw mushrooms.

        In addition, there are also other high-protein crops in Thailand that can be sold at a good price and that have a short growing period, such as hemp and split-gill mushrooms, which have the potential to be developed into future economic crops.

        It may not be easy to select which of these crops should be primarily processed as a plant-based protein product of the future. Related food processors may have to assess other factors such as whether certain crops have specific advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, the crops must fulfill other requirements in each crop supply chain.

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