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'Sacred cow' of farming blocks Thailand's growth

Years of agricultural supports have weakened competitiveness

Kulnathee Suparathcapun grows EU-certified organic rice in Thailand's Nakhon Pathom Province.

BANGKOK -- From organic crops to modern technologies, Thailand's farmers seek new ways to carve out a place in the global market. But the kind of painful reforms the country desperately needs are slow to come, with the government wary of alienating a key political bloc.

Organic Thai rice recently began appearing at high-end supermarkets in Luxembourg, whose per-capita gross domestic product was a world leader in 2015 at $103,000. The grains, grown in Thailand's central Nakhon Pathom Province without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, have half the yield of regular rice but fetch 10 times the price.

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