As food demand in Asia grows, smallholder farmers have been thrust into the spotlight. Multinationals are entering the fray, giving rise to calls for farmer protection.

SINGAPORE (Nov 12): Sitkongjirang Tinnakorn is close to realising his dream of setting up the first greenhouse in his village. He has spent four years toiling at a Singapore farm, learning modern farming techniques. Now, he is going back to his village in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he expects to grow vegetables all year round.

The Tinnakorn family has been farmers for generations. They never worried about food — they grew enough rice, corn and vegetables for their own consumption, and then some. But education fees for the younger generation and farming infrastructure costs have gone up in recent years. Irregular weather patterns have also resulted in floods and droughts, upsetting the planting seasons. “We depend on the rain to plant our crop,” Sitkongjirang says. “[But] when the rain comes, everyone starts planting and that results in severe oversupply. Our family [has had to throw] away cabbage and tomatoes.”

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