April 20, 2020 - Tops responds to the Ministry of Commerce’s measures to drive the agricultural sector in Thailand under the project “Partnership with Ministry of Commerce to drive sales of farm produce and fruits”. Thai people are encouraged to consume seasonal Thai fruits with the concept of Eat Thai First. In a proactive measure, Regional Buying Stations have been set up to allow farmers and SMEs, as well as those affected by the export bans resulting from COVID-19, to get support more conveniently. Farm produce is promoted on omni-channel platforms both online and offline, with long-term plans to improve Thailand’s agricultural industry beyond the COVID-19 situation. Currently, Tops purchases over 9,000 items of farm produce and processed goods from 1,170 communities nationwide, thereby assisting more than 24,000 families throughout the country so that they can have better quality of life and more stable income.

Mr.Jurin Laksanawisit, deputy prime minister and commerce minister, recently paid a visit to the project which aims to connect and expand distribution of farm produce and fruits in order to assist Thai farmers affected by the COVID-19 situation. He also spoke to farmers in local community enterprises such as Organic Mango for Export Community Enterprise in Lan Sak district, Uthai Thani province, durian and fruit farmers in the Eastern Region from Agricultural Sector Business Promotion Cooperative of Trat province, Mango for Export Community Enterprise in Ban Phae district, Ratchaburi province, Natural Organic Farmers’ Group in Kamphaengphet province, as well as farmers and businesses under Jing Jai Farmers’ Market, at Tops Market Chaeng Wattana. On this occasion, he also talked about the overview of Thai fruits in this season. “It is expected that in 2020 there will be a large supply of summer fruits in Thailand, and the demand will be clustered in the country because the export industry is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ministry of Commerce has initiated measures to connect and expand distribution of fruits from farmers directly to consumers, and we encourage people to consume fruits through various activities. We have provided spaces for farmers to sell their produce, with support from Central Food Retail Company Limited, which operates Tops and Central Food Hall, to drive the sales of summer fruits in 2020. The company has increased its purchase of fruits, and expanded distribution channels for fruits at Tops, Central Food Hall, and Family Mart. The Ministry of Commerce also raises awareness among Thai consumers to eat seasonal Thai fruits with the concept of Eat Thai First, so that Thai people can enjoy export-grade fruits at affordable prices, which in turn also helps Thai farmers.”

Mr.Stephane Coum, CEO of Central Food Retail Group a part of Central Retail , talked about this partnership with the Ministry of Commerce to boost the economy and supported both farmers and Thai people in this COVID-19 situation. There are two main missions which need to be executed urgently:

1. Measures to help farmers by setting up regional buying stations so that farmers and local businesses who are affected by the COVID-19 situation, do not have any markets to sell their products, or have been given unfair prices, can easily access assistance. They can contact the regional buying stations at the following numbers. Bangkok and vicinity: 081-860-9702,087-107-8716, Eastern and Western Regions: 082-113-8998, Northeastern Region: 088-267-9754, Northern Region: 081-724-0375 and Southern Region: 081-959-2295. In April and May, there is a large amount of summer fruits, especially nam dok mai mangoes, and farmers in Ratchaburi, Uthai Thani and Kalasin who usually export their produce do not have suitable markets. Tops has increased its purchase by 40% and currently sells 15 variations. The farmers get reasonable prices, and Thai consumers can enjoy these fruits at good prices in order to drive sales. Jing Jai Farmers’ Market, which is available in 14 locations in 12 provinces, and newly developed Line@ shops namely @jingjaichiangmai, @jingjaimarket_udon, @jingjai_nakhornsri and @jingjai_CWN. Providing retailing knowledge to farmers. The company has appointed its procurement team to help develop products, design packaging, and plan production in line with consumer’s demand and market. Expanding channels both offline and online to increase distribution of farm produce and processed goods. In the COVID-19 situation, consumers purchase more vegetables, fruits and fresh ingredients, and online channels play a bigger role. Consumers can purchase these items on www.tops.co.th and Grab application without leaving their home. This service covers 41 provinces in Thailand.

The second urgent mission is to work with the Ministry of Commerce to reduce prices in order to reduce the cost of living for Thai people. The company has announced a price lock for 26,000 items for 90 days, with additional discounts on price-locked items. There are thousands of items to choose from on a rotational basis at Tops Market, Tops Superstore, Tops Daily, Tops Online and Family Mart, from now to July 4, 2020. This does not include some agricultural produce as the prices will be based on seasonal availability and market prices in order to support Thai farmers and local SMEs to have steady income.

Tops is committed to supporting and partnering with Thai farmers, local SMEs and local community enterprises. You are invited to support them by purchasing their vegetables, fruits, and processed goods from these communities so that our farmers can improve their quality of life, have sustainable income, and have the strength to get through this crisis together.

Farmer’s interview

Among the farmers who have been supported by Tops amidst the COVID-19 crisis is Sinthana Farmer Group in Kanchanaburi province, led by Athita Tulyawanit, President of Organic Mango for Export Local Community Enterprise, together with Manop Mekchai and Manthana Mekchai. She said, “Usually, 70% of our organic mangoes are exported, and 30% are sold locally. We export our mangoes to Japan, Korea, and European countries. The COVID-19 situation has greatly impacted our business as we are not able to export our mangoes by plane since most airlines have temporarily suspended their services, or some offer services at very high fees. If we export by sea, the quality cannot be guaranteed. Right now, only 10% of our mangoes are exported, and there is a large amount left. Some farmers do not collect the mangoes - they just leave them to waste. This means their investment is lost and they have to shoulder a deficit. However, Sinthana Farmer Group is lucky to receive support from Tops, and we have been in partnership with Tops for five years now. Tops has played a significant role in helping us get through this difficult time and we are able to sell our products to local consumers through Tops physical stores and online stores. Currently, we are building a brand for processed goods so we can focus on our dried mango products. Tops’ team has offered us help in product development and distribution, and they assure our farmers that our mangoes are delicious and our customers will certainly come back for more. I would like to invite everyone to support Thai fruits and enjoy export-grade fruits at reasonable prices.”

Thanapat Javinat, Manager of Agricultural Sector Business Promotion Cooperative of Trat province, together with Songkran Komwate and Wanna Phumala, durian and fruit farmers in Eastern Thailand, said, “We have sold our produce to Tops for over five years now. Initially, we received support from the Ministry of Commerce who invited Central Food Retail representatives to Trat province to assess the quality of our produce and exchange experiences. Our cooperative offers farm produce by our members and farmers in Trat province, and we focus on marketing in order to sell our produce while still ensuring fair pricing. We have five fruits in total: rambutan, durian, longan, mangoesteen and golden pineapple. Usually, 75% of our produce is exported, and 25% is for local consumption. Our main markets are Vietnam, China and some European countries. This year, with the COVID-19 situation, our export is greatly reduced, and we cannot anticipate whether the buying plan will continue as planned. However, we try to focus on the quality of our produce so that our consumers can enjoy great fruits. Once they have tried them, they will want to buy more, and the prices are reasonable. Tops has offered us support and bought a bigger amount at a fair price. With online channels, consumers can conveniently purchase our produce, and the demand for fruits does not reduce.”

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