Loving local beans? The challenge of valorizing local food in the Thai highlands

Sittidaj Pongkijvorasin, Steven R. McGreevy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Highland areas in Thailand suffer from deforestation due to overproduction of maize and more ecologically favorable crops such as coffee are an attractive alternative. Beyond the obvious option to export coffee, policy schemes are being enacted to promote local production for local consumption. Rural development literature has long-lauded policies and strategies to add value to agricultural products by valorizing place and emphasizing socio-cultural or ecological elements unique to a certain region. A domestic boom in coffee consumption and shifting cultural values toward the practice of coffee drinking has put farmers in a position to benefit by cashing in on “local coffee” and improving environmental conditions. This research examines the strategy of valorizing the “localness” of food products and the process of embedding introduced foods in a developing country context. Combining fieldwork and survey data from a choice experiment to examine changing consumer culture and preferences, we show how the “localness” of an everyday drink is perceived and embedded in very different and unexpected ways by residents and tourists in Nan Province. While tourists acknowledge and value coffee from Nan, Nan residents would rather pay less for coffee made with local beans, which has implications for the economic viability of a local production for local consumption strategy and potential repercussions for regional environmental health. Careful consideration is needed to co-evolve new markets and new social practices when valorizing introduced products as local to a place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17305–17328
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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