Thursday, 27 April 2017
A Hunger Games or bigger fish to fry for Thailand and UK and ASEAN?
Here in East Kent the Hunger Games movie has popped up with both the first terrestrial TV broadcast (Channel Four's Film Four channel, as with the BBC moving out of London to the regions). And East Kent MP Charlie Elphicke railing against the London transport system acting as a Hunger Games-style dictatorship to Kent transport:
East Kent the lifeline for London with the Channel Tunnel and Dover Port, Europe's largest port along with motorway routes and even the Ramsgate and Hastings fishing industries and seafood. And now of course the One Belt One Road freight train to China and extra Thames Crossing and a new Disneyland with Paramount theme park.
And any Brexit problems of customs delays and even the mega-cementing of Kent countryside for the odd Stack Lorry Park and New Town.
But even worse than the pressures on Kent transport is the news in Khun Sirinya's article of a possible ban on street food in Bangkok:
As a keen supporter of Thai food and Thai tourism I nearly dropped my Great British bacon sandwich on reading the news as surely reducing such street outlets is a backward step? And as Khun Sirinya details, a damaging move for Thailand's Cuisine Culture and a problem for hordes of hungry Bangkokians in having to search far and wide for sustenance?
The only possible benefit might be a reduction in the tidal wave of plastic bags?
And it's particularly worrying with the Michelin restaurant guide last Friday at long last rating Thai cuisine in Bangkok by 2018 - and hopefully out to the regions too. Hopefully one day here in Ramsgate too at Surin Thai restaurant already a top ten UK Thai restaurant - try the sea bass:
It was reassuring to hear Khun Kobkarn the dynamic Tourism and Sports Minister at the Michelin Guide launch quickly rowing back on any street food ban and urging a more detailed rethink, even a Street Food version of the Michelin by Thai Tourism such as the Michelin Rosette for Pub Food in UK?
Any half dozen street stalls are a delicious crash-course in the astonishing range and quality of Thai food, as well as a language course too, and far cooler and less antiseptic than the mall-marts or hotel restaurants.
While the horrifying malnutrition figure of 45% in nearby Laos and Cambodia suggests there is a hole in the ASEAN rice basket if almost 20M people are suffering African levels of starvation. Plus no doubt in Myanmar too where data is even weaker.
But thankfully ASEAN Rail is moving further down the track with PM's Prayut and Hun Sen due to open the Thai-Cambodian link to Sisophon by July. Leaving only a few hundred kilometres of track through to Phnom Penh and onto HCMC. 2 years to complete? 3?
The ASEAN Focus magazine details the spur routes from Vientiane in Laos to Vietnam's deep sea port in Vinh and Kanchanaburi through to Dawei which would expedite foodstuffs through ASEAN's markets and into China's Yunnan and Chengdu hubs, and with increased demand of course onto Europe and UK:
And ASEAN Forum magazine also with hispeed rail, Cambodia Tourism and UK Trade Envoy Lord Puttnam:
Indeed, the first London to China freight train has already left Essex and Kent through the Channel Tunnel and should be arriving in China any day now.
And here in UK, supposedly a G7 nation with the world's 5th largest economy, we've managed to reach the woeful figure of 1M people relying on Food Banks for free food welfare. Plus more action called for on a Sugar Tax for HFSS (High Fat Salt and Sugar) foods especially fizzy drinks along with the delayed UK Tobacco Plan (100k deaths each year in UK) and Air Pollution Plan (50k deaths each year in UK).
Kent County Council's investment of public sector pensions in tobacco is astonishingly foolish given its remit for Public Health and reducing tobacco. It's almost as silly as its investments in Fossil Fuels with the closure of all the UK's main coal mines last year, and last week the first full day ever of UK electricity generation without coal.
It's hard to see how either problem will be fixed, given UK smoking rates are static at 15%, without store permits/reductions for tobacco, especially the main supermarkets ending tobacco sales or at least donating profits from the cancer sticks to charity.
Plus the speeding up delivery of electric cars, batteries and charging posts from both public sector and private sector fleets before the end of combustion engine manufacture by VW etc by 2030.
In my politics work (Garbutt for MP on 8th June) I'll also be urging from the Sky TV campaign on Ocean Plastics biodegradable and recyclable plastics for products on sale here at the seaside given plastic washed into the oceans may be 80% higher than thought.
Street food stalls aside though, surely the Thai agriculture and food industry should be going full steam ahead for Superfoods and Healthy Eating for UK and Europe?
Scottish schoolchildren will no doubt struggle along with the tartan version of a balanced meal of just a deep-fried Mars bar and a glass of whisky for lunch. Although in a disunited kingdom they've somehow managed free university tuition and votes for 16 year olds that the rest of UK doesn't have. No doubt a boon for Scotland's 19 excellent universities as well as Kent's 4 universities and dozens of colleges and language schools.
One interesting policy for the 8th June election (did I mention Garbutt for MP?) is Labour - the UK's Redshirts if you will - new policy for free school meals for all 11M UK schoolchildren not just the poorer ones.
Surely that should be a major boost for Healthy Eating and surge in UK Obesity, whether Great British Quorn, a sort of mushroom protein, now big in Philippines exports (delicious in Laarb too) or Alpro Soya Milk in nearby Belgium. Or even 10 a day fruit and veg from the orchards of Kent's apples and pears and Thailand's bananas and coconuts.
While agri-research on Loei and Kent strawberries must be a shoo-in to phase supplies through the seasons for companies such as Tesco/Lotus?
Even the Kent and Thai orchids industries are being urged on by Asda-Walmart, John Lewis-Waitrose and Wilkinson and small florists here in Ramsgate. Again it's hardly outrageous to see the blooms phased into both the UK Summer and Winter seasons, even as a new variety of Xmas decorations.
Thailand's rubber farmers might want to urge on greater automotive links between Thailand and the resurgent UK car industry in Nissan Sunderland and the Midlands Engine for say increased volume on bumpers and floor mats before graphene takes a grip.
While increasing the Thai students studying in UK from 8k to 20k - on a par with Malaysia - would provide a ready-made boost for Thai food exports as well as remittances home. Surely an impetus too to expand Bangkok Bank or SCB branches in UK - one Bangkok Branch Branch in London City can't be enough to cope with extra Thai students and tourists and expats and investment projects?
The surge in Food Science and Sports Science along with Clean Eating and Mood Food fads must also be ripe for UK-Thai research with TDRI and TRF etc?
And why shouldn't Thailand's Superfood industries from Pomegranates to Pineapples be crammed in like sardines next to John West Seafood, and piled high on British plates?
Working together, shouldn't UK and Thailand ensure that nobody goes hungry, and that Hunger Games is just a rather dull movie?