Thailand's economy has grown steadily by an average of 8 percent for the past decade. There is a wide base for growth, with each sector contributing to the development of the economy. Starting out as an agrarian economy, Thailand's bid for industrialization strengthened its industry sector, while the boom in the tourism industry strengthened the service sector. In the 1990s,
Agriculture has been the traditional backbone of the economy, with Thailand being ranked among the top 5 producers of food in the world. In the 1970s, the country supplied 30 percent to 40 percent of rice in the world market. In the 1990s, it continued to be the leading exporter of rice, tapioca, and frozen shrimp. It is also the world's largest producer of rubber, the demand for which has increased due to the AIDS epidemic, which has increased the demand for condoms. Thailand is also one of
With the re-orientation of production from import substitution to producing for export, and the drive towards industrialization, the manufacturing industry grew steadily until it exceeded agriculture in terms of contribution to GDP. According to Bank of Thailand statistics reflected in the 2000 Business Monitor International Annual Report, the manufacturing industry accounted for 86.8 percent of the country's total exports in 1999. The country's first step into manufacturing was food processing, effectively building on its strong agricultural sector. Today, it is the world's largest exporter of canned pineapple, with one-third of all the canned pineapple sold in the United States coming from Thailand. It is also Asia's biggest exporter of tuna after Unicord, a local company, purchased Bumble Bee Seafoods, the third largest tuna canner in the United States. It now supplies 20 percent of the world market for canned tuna.
The country's service sector is experiencing steady growth, with the boom in the tourism industry. In 1992, tourism accounted for 10 percent of the GDP, with 600 tourists arriving every hour, or 5,256,000 tourists for the year, spending an average of US$1,000 each, equivalent to about US$5 billion a year. This amount is equal to 50 percent of the country's total exports. In 2000, revenues from tourism were expected to hit 343 billion baht or US$6.86 billion, with a total of 9,438,000 tourists expected to visit the country throughout the year.
Strong local corporations—such as Charoen Pokp-hand, which earns revenue of US$2.5 billion annually; Thai Union Frozen Products, the largest canned seafood exporter; and Boonrawd Brewery—work together with various multinational corporations to energize the manufacturing industry. Forecasts for the year 2000 predicted that multinational corporations which have set up shop in the country—such as Mitsubishi, Isuzu, and Honda for automobiles; Fujitsu, Seagate, IBM, Sony, and Matsushita Electronic for electronics; Heineken and Carlsberg breweries, and Nestle and Kellogg for food processing; and Exxon, Montell, and Bayer for petrochemicals—will expand their operations in the country and pump in more investment.