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Thai Ambassador Waravuth Pouapinya durng his interaction with Gulf News. Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Dubai: Thailand is ready to roll out the red carpet for the UAE government and investors in the country to engage in contract farming in Thailand to boost the UAE’s innovation-driven food security, Thai Ambassador Waravuth Pouapinya told Gulf News.

“The UAE has many projects and one of them is the National Food Security Strategy. Thailand can help the UAE achieve this goal. We have various agricultural products that will ensure the country’s food security,” Pouapinya said during the interview, where he also spoke about UAE-Thailand bilateral and trade relations, tourism prospects and Expo 2020 Dubai.

Pouapinya said contract farming is a “direct-to-farmer agreement, where the government or private companies can give farmers specifications of what kind of food or agricultural products to produce”. This arrangement will ensure that farm products are halal and based on the requirements of the UAE market. “This [contract farming] will also boost the efforts of the government to establish the UAE as a world-leading hub in innovation-driven food security,” he added.

Trade and diplomatic relations

In terms of trade relations, Pouapinya noted the UAE is Thailand's main trading partner in the region. “In 2020, the total trade volume between the two countries reached more than $7 billion (Dh25.74 billion), making the UAE the number one trade partner of Thailand in the Middle East and number 16 worldwide. Thailand mainly imports oil and petroleum products and exports automobiles, jewellery, heavy industry materials and agricultural products.

Pouapinya said the strong diplomatic relations between the UAE and Thailand dates back to December 12, 1975. “It has been spanning over 45 years and we were supposed to have a grand celebration back in December 2020, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic,” he added.

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Thailand Ambassador Waravuth Pouapinya said the Thailand Pavilion ranks as number one in the Mobility District of Expo 2020 Dubai and is among the top five pavilions overall in terms of visitor numbers. Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Thailand’s biggest participation at Expo

Last month, Thailand exhibited the scope of its heritage and culture during its National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai with a ‘Smile Parade’ and an art feature at its pavilion titled ‘The Miracle of Smiles’.

Pouapinya noted that at Expo 2020 Dubai, Thailand has its largest pavilion ever built in its participation at World Expos. In Dubai, Thailand is showcasing its digital infrastructure and advances in the fields of transportation, logistics, digital connectivity and personal mobility. He added that the Thailand Pavilion ranks number one in the Mobility District and among the top five overall in terms of visitor numbers, with more than 500,000 visitors till date. Pouapinya said they also recently organised a business meeting that ran parallel to Expo 2020 Dubai, which drew a delegation of more than 50 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) from Thailand to Dubai.

140,000 Emirati tourists every year

Pouapinya also noted that Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations for Emiratis. He said: “Prior to the pandemic, we have been receiving around 140,000 Emirati tourists annually. Tourism is making a comeback and in November last year, when the ‘test-and-go’ scheme for fully vaccinated visitors was implemented, around 10,000 Emiratis visited Thailand.”

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Explaining why Thailand is a favourite destination among Emiratis, the envoy said the country is “flexible for them and we have many things to offer in terms of leisure, medical tourism, shopping, spa, swimming and mountain biking. We adapt ourselves to the demands of the customers and we also have a good halal industry”.

At present, however, Thailand has suspended the ‘test-and-go’ scheme for fully vaccinated arrivals and has imposed a seven-day quarantine for all visitors to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. But with its successful vaccination and booster dose programmes, Pouapinya is confident that Thailand’s tourism sector will make a comeback this year and visitors from the UAE will again get to enjoy the beauty of the Southeast Asian country.