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Street WISE: Selling longan a truly heroic job : On July 14, 2005
Following the release of "Ong Bak", Thailand welcomed a new action hero: Panom "Jaa" Yeerum.
And as his second flick, "Tom Yam Kung", will be launched soon with a budget of about Bt200 million, Panom is expected to become much more famous in and outside the Kingdom.
Matched against his heroic roles in the two films, Panom's new undertaking seems to be irrelevant - he is the Agriculture Ministry's new promoter for longan consumption.
But the job is his, and he will be appearing in ministry commercials aired in many countries - where Panom is famous - to promote the Thai fruit known for its excessive harvests which greatly affect its price.
Given that this is harvest season, the output is so huge that the price is extremely low. A visitor to Phayao bought the fruit for less than Bt5 per kilogram. That seems terrifying for the farmers who are faced with such a low price for their combined 600,000 tonnes.
The government hopes that advertisements showing Panom boosting his physical strength by eating the sweet fruit will help. Other organisations have done their share. Oishi Group has turned dried longans into juice, while Chiang Mai province plans to serve longans at hospitals and prisons.
Indeed, it sounds good that the government is getting serious in promoting a Thai fruit that has for so long been at the centre of price-fixing scandals.
While many wonder why so many farmers still grow longans despite their poor prospects, they also wonder if Panom's appearance will help the ministry achieve its goals. Longans are very sweet, and not recommended for diabetics. Children may like them, but if they eat too many they run the risk of a sore throat.
Plus, Thailand is a well-known producer of many different fruits. What would happen if all the other fruit farmers come forward for similar assistance?
Just on Sunday, a group of mangosteen growers gathered in Nakhon Si Thammarat to do just that. They clearly specified that they wanted the same assistance from the government that is given to longan growers.
This year, the approved budget to promote longan consumption is Bt2 billion, but how much will it be in the coming years? And how much will be set aside for other fruits? Seems like a very long list of expenditures.
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