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PHUKET: Pineapples, batik, goat milk and lobster will be branded and promoted by Pracha Rath Rak Samakkee to help boost the province’s grassroots agricultural economy.

Pracha Rath Rak Samakkee Phuket was first launched on March 31, as a government-backed corporation with the aim of developing and promoting the province’s strengths, such as tourism, agriculture and locally-produced goods under the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) banner.

“There is much local wisdom surrounding these agricultural products, which are high-quality products worthy of a place on the international market, but have never been effectively marketed due to a lack of local marketing skills,” said Pracha Rath’s Orasa Tosawang on July 8.

“Now it’s time to bring about change by helping promote these grassroots enterprises and improve their standard of living,” said Ms Orasa.

Initiated by Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, the Pracha Rath project’s ultimate goal is to boost local economies through collaboration between the government, the private sector and local communities.

Phuket was selected as a pilot province, with the aim of strengthening the overall grassroots economy, which in turn is expected to strengthen the nation’s economy. If successful, similar initiatives are planned for Petchaburi, Udon Thani, Chiang Mai and Buriram provinces.

“The aim of the initiative was to increase income for the rural population and to improve the standard of living in southern provinces through three strategic areas: agriculture, product processing and community tourism,” Mr Anupong said in May.

“Pracha Rath operates as the middleman between local producers of agricultural products and big businesses owners. Simply put, locals have quality products that big businesses need. It’s a win-win solution,” said Mr Anupong.

Topping the list of Phuket’s home-grown products is the Phuket Pineapple, which has a Pracha Rath price tag of 1,500 baht.

Currently, only 50 locally-grown pineapples meet the criteria to merit the 1,500-baht price tag. Another 50 are expected to be ripe and ready to eat by October.

Asked how Pracha Rath could justify the high price for pineapples, Ms Orasa said it was part of the marketing strategy to boost Phuket’s identity as a source of quality agricultural products.

“Nonthaburi Province, for example, has durian which sells for 210,000 baht, after the Nonthaburi governor launched a durian promotion campaign. The campaign put the province in the spotlight and it became well-known nationwide, so why shouldn’t Phuket have a 1,500 baht pineapple?” Ms Orasa asked.

“The pricey Phuket pineapples are really a gimmick to help promote Phuket as a producer of quality pineapples,” she said.

Ms Orasa said the ultimate aim was to raise the price of the average Phuket pineapple from 30 baht to at least 70 baht each.

“We have already talked with the Phuket Hotel Association, and more than 50 hotels are ready to help out by buying pineapples from locals at 70 baht a piece. The rest is up to local producers to grow quality pineapples with guidance from our experts,” said Ms Orasa.

Batik is another unique Phuket product that has lacked promotion, according to Pracha Rath representatives.

“We are going to help those batik makers raise the quality of their product with modern designs,” Ms Orasa said. “Umbrellas, bags and notebooks,are among the specific products we are promoting, as well as new packaging and custom designs with the help of Miss Grand Phuket as the Phuket Batik Ambassador.”

Ms Orasa said Pracha Rath is targeting hotels and souvenir shops to sell the batik products. “The outlay for the batik bag producers is about 200 to 400 baht but they will sell in the shops for about 1,200 baht, while the umbrellas will fetch around 450 baht each,” she said.

Pracha Rath has also launched campaigns to promote Phuket goat milk and lobster, representatives confirmed.

Ms Orasa said Phuket goat milk has won several national awards and will be promoted through a new marketing campaign.

“There are several beauty products derived from goat’s milk, such as body lotions, soaps and shower cream,” she said.

The annual Phuket Lobster Festival, held throughout August, now falls under the Pracha Rath banner as well, with the group aiming to promote the crustacean as a signature menu item in Phuket restaurants.

“More than 30 restaurants in Phuket are joining the lobster festival with their own Phuket lobster signature dishes. A number of restaurants will be featuring lobsters, Phuket pineapples and goat milk,” said Ms Orasa.

— Kongleaphy Keam