Thai farmers find more money to be made in bugs
Shortly after dawn, a procession of trucks, motorcycles and carts laden with plastic-wrapped bundles winds its way toward Aranyaprathet's sprawling Rong Klua market, the largest second-hand emporium in the country. The town is on the eastern border with Cambodia and draws vendors from the neighbouring country peddling mostly used clothing, curios and tawdry knickknacks. However, the 3,000-stall market is not all trinkets, with vendors selling fresh produce from Cambodia, including edible insects.
Thea Tep is one of a growing number of insect sellers creating a buzz in a cavernous hall in the heart of the market. Mornings are her busiest time, when boxes crammed with frozen grasshoppers are delivered to her shop, Tata Bugs Trading. She also sells frozen silkworm pupae transported overland from southern China. She says the business has improved since her father started it a decade ago. "The supply of insects is better now," she said.
The edible insect trade has taken off in Thailand in recent years and the country is now Southeast Asia's largest importer of insects. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates Thailand annually imports 800 tons of edible insects from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos and 270 tons of silkworm pupae from China.