Thais have been cultivating rice for 700 years. More than half of Thailand's population is involved in growing, processing, transporting and marketing rice. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice. Other agricultural exports are tapioca, coconuts, sugar, maize, pineapple, cotton, jute, green beans, soybeans and palm oil. Thailand has also developed an important food processing industry.

Rubber trees were introduced to Thailand 100 years ago. Thai farmers operate small rubber plantations on the island of Phuket in southern Thailand. Some farmers plant cashews or pineapples between the rubber trees.

Silk weaving is practised in the northeast. Families raise silk worms in their homes. They boil the cocoons to release raw silk threads. Throughout Thailand, cottage industries such as silk and basket weaving provide families with income between agricultural seasons. During the off-season, some Thai farmers load barges on the Chao Phya River that runs through Bangkok.

Many Thais work in the fishing industry. In the Gulf of Thailand, fishermen use bright lights to lure squid into their nets. Recently, conservationists have expressed concern about the negative effects of overfishing in the Gulf.

   Did you know?
In the 1980s, Thailand became an important diamond-cutting centre. Today, precious stones from all over the world are cut and polished in Thailand.
The government encourages new industries in Thailand. Automobile assembly factories have been set up to build cars and textile factories produce clothing for export. Since the 1980s, tourism has increased. It has stimulated the construction industry, which employs both men and women.

The Thai government has encouraged the hill tribes to stop the destructive practice of slash-and-burn agriculture and to grow vegetables for sale. When the growing season is over, the men of the hill tribes hunt birds and small animals. Some make and sell jewellery and embroidered clothes.

   Did you know?
Before the 20th century, rivers and canals were the roads of Thailand. Although some canals have been filled in, many still serve as thoroughfares. Vendors hawk their goods at floating markets; parents take their children to school in motorboats, and monks paddle from door to door to receive their daily alms.