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Farming & Gardening In Thailand Tips on how to achieve a beautiful tropical garden. How to grow those orchids, deter pests from your Fruit and Vegetables, or growing your own Thai Spices & Herbs. Feel free to post your pictures and stories about Thai National parks, or any questions you may have about your pets and animals or even Thai Snakes.

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Old 03-08-2012, 11:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Rubber trees 101

Just thought I would post this here encase anyone was interested. I posted it on another farming forum last year, so anyone really looking will have read it already.


RUBBER 101 FOR BEGINNERS a rough guide
First requirement is land, on which to plant. Rubber is a jungle tree and likes rain, but does not like wet ground. So rice paddies, swamps, marshes and flood plains are generally not suitable for rubber. Measures can be taken to utilise this type of land, but the long term cost will be prohibitive.
Ideally gently sloping land, that does not flood. As I am from Issan this is the area that I know. Here rubber is planted along the Cambodia, Lao border, near the mountains and Mekong river. Inland areas are just too dry for long periods of the year. Again measures can be taken, irrigation etc, but long term costs have to be looked at.
Now we have found our bit of rubber tree heaven and want to prepare the land for trees. Remember that in 7 or 8 years men will be staggering around in the dead of night tripping over old stumps. rocks and falling in holes. Level the ground as best you can and if you have access to animal manure [which includes septic sam the toilet man] plough it in to the ground. Put up your fences, don't want cattle and water buffalo wandering around and standing on or eating your young trees. Build a workers hut, the nicer the better. Workers and you may spend a lot of time there over the coming years. Be comfortable after all a cold beer with your workers, swinging in your hammock at the end off a hot day of grass cutting is one of the better moments and will help to bond you with the locals.
THE TREES
Which type of tree [clone] for you.
RIMM 600 your basic tried and tested rubber tree, grown throughout Thailand.
RIMM 251 a better rubber producer, twice as much as the 600, but with all things has some draw backs. Shorter life, less lumber value and worst of all, fall over in the wind. Not suitable for coastal regions or windy areas.
JVP80 New tree type and I know nothing about the pros and cons for it. Allegedly tappable after 5 years. Think the jury is still out.
Best advice go to the Government Agriculture Office for your district and ask what's best in your area. That's what these guys are paid to do, give advise. They may not be the smartest people in the world, but they will know what's doing well and what's not.
BUYING OR GROWING TREES.
To buy from a nursery or grow your own, that is the question.
If you are going the nursery way, do your home work and find the place with the best reputation, not the wifes 2nd. cousin, who started a nursery last week. I would not go the way of ordering and placing a deposit. If the nursery can get a better price they will sell the good trees and you will be left with what is left. It may cost more ,but just pay the price when you need them and get the good trees.
Personally I favour making your own nursery. It is not difficult or costly, just time consuming, but you will get trees that you know have been cared for.
THE BIG MOMENT PLANTING
Much debate has gone on about spacing and number of trees per Rai. For this we will stick to the Governments recommendation. 76 trees per Rai, 3 metres between trees and 7 metres between rows.
Mark out your land for the trees and await the rains. You want your trees in the ground as soon as possible, but not too early as the rain may stop and your trees start dying. Much of the timing will depend on where you are. The lack of rain [water ] will be your biggest enemy in the first 12 months. If you have the money buy a water tank on wheels and a good tractor to pull it. I being a poor man used a 2 wheeled rice tractor with 4 100 litre drums on the trailer.
Labour will be a problem, as planting falls at around the Cassava and rice planting times, most people will be busy on there own land. What you can do is pay by the hole and they will come and go as they see fit.
Holes should be 1 metre in diameter and 1/2 a metre deep, so as to form an earthen bowl. Check the hole sizes or they will get progressively smaller as time goes by. Just get 2/ 1 metre sticks make a cross and tie a 1/2 metre string with weight to it. Easy and fast to check. You can sprinkle a small amount of fertilizer, but as you will be fertilizing after planting it is not necessary. Some areas will also put in Fundan pesticide to kill boring insects, Your choice.
When planting the trees remove them from the plastic bag, tickle out the roots and plant them. They are a very hardy tree and you don't have to be gentle. Water in if necessary ,
the hole my be half full of rain water already.
When all the plantings done have a party for the workers. You are now a planter.

PART 2 THE LONG HAUL
Now that the excitement of starting has waned and the family are not getting new toys, pickup trucks, tractors, scrub cutters etc You need a foreman, you maybe blessed by having an in-law who is hard working, loyal and given up all worldly greed, if not you need to be there to make sure what you pay for gets done.
FERTILIZER
I won't go into too much depth on this subject as best practice changes as Agriculture researchers refine and learn better ways. Common practice for most Thais is one 50 kilo bag per Rai twice a year. The area around the tree is roughed up and the fertilizer is sprinkled around, then rice chaff or grass is place over the area to stop the fertilizer blowing or washing away. This method works fine, but is not best practice.
Here again we want our friend the local Agriculture advisers help. He can give you a booklet on the best method at the time. Which is currently the 3 hole varying amount and fertilizer type. The plan is worked out for the age of the tree and will save you money, as well as give you trees a little added help.

FIRE and WEED CONTROL
You have now entered into an on going war with grass and weeds, if not controlled they will out grow your trees and in the dry season will become a very serious fire hazard. Plow the field a least twice a year for the first 2 years. This not only keeps the weeds down, but allows the soil to soak up water. Scrub cutters [weed whackers] will be constantly on the go and you will need to poison. All it takes is one ember from someone burning off his rice stubble and all your work can go up in smoke.
BUGS MOULTS DECEASE and BRANCHES
One of the constant on going jobs will be removing the small branches that grow on your trees. You only want the top branches, all others that grow from the trunk need to be removed. A small pair of side cutters will be your companion for a few years. Branches are removed to the 3 metre high mark. While doing your branch patrol you will see if a tree is having problems or has died. Dead trees can be replaced the next planting time for the first 2 maybe 3 years, after which the canopy of the existing trees will stop new trees growing. If you are smart you will have kept a percentage of your original trees and potted them [bigger grow bags] then you can replace dead or under preforming trees with healthy strong trees of the same age.
Other problems such as termites, molds and diseases which may occur, will be seen on your branch patrols. Now just like our pig farmers you don't have to be a vet to know your pigs are sick. Same with your trees, if something is wrong hire an expert, you are the manager and your job is to manage.
TAPPING TIME HAS COME
The years have passed, your money and hair have gone, but you have made it to those magic numbers. 7 years old, 46 cm in circumference 1 metre from the ground. In reality after all the years you will be taking no notice of these numbers and will tap by tree condition, but for now we will stick to the generic numbers.
First problem tappers. Good tappers are hard to find. A good tapper will take a shaving of bark so fine that it will float to the ground like a feather. He will not touch the wood of the tree and latex will flow. A bad or inexperienced tapper will take a slice of bark with some tree wood and hurt the tree. Moral of this story is a good tapper us worth his weight in rubber, take care of him, it will pay in the long run.
Tapping schedule
Basic rule tap 2 rest 1. Many Thais will tap 3 rest 1. By this stage you should know what's best for your trees. If a tree stops growing or starts to struggle stop tapping and let the tree rest.
That's about it, now all you need to do is decide, liquid latex, cup or sheet. The rest is just sit in your comfortable tappers hut watching your workers toil in the hot sun, while you drink cold beer and think of your friends back home doing the 9 to 5 grind.
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Old 03-08-2012, 11:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Thanks Jim.
I've followed your work/info for a time now...

You seem to be the proverbial Farang expert [tried & true] as it applies to rubber tree cultivation and care.

Can only be an added plus.
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Old 03-08-2012, 11:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rural Surin View Post
Thanks Jim.
I've followed your work/info for a time now...

You seem to be the proverbial Farang expert [tried & true] as it applies to rubber tree cultivation and care.

Can only be an added plus.
Thanks for that, but in reality I am just groping my way in the dark. Jim
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Old 04-08-2012, 12:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by jamescollister
As I am from Issan
You've gone native.
Good work that man!
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Old 04-08-2012, 02:41 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I planted about 500 trees about 4 years ago, hardly touched them and they're almost at tapping stage.

All I did was plough between the rows to control the weeds maybe thrown a bit of fertilizer around once or twice and that's it. I can't even remember watering them after the first month or so.

I have read many publications that say don't over water and the roots will go deeper looking for water and the tree will be stronger as a result. I certainly applied that principle and maybe lost about 20 in total. I was pretty happy with that considering all the experts around me wanted to water, spray, fertilize and generally spend my money every 5 minutes.

I don't, of course, have any right for these trees to be alive but the silly farang has gained some respect around the traps and I don't see any need to burst that bubble.
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Old 04-08-2012, 06:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Rubber is the big growth crop around here, north of Ubon. Unfortunately we're losing forest, not paddy, to make way for it- I figured it was something to do with drainage, but your post confirmed that Jim. Mil (quite the environmentalist actually) surprised me by having 5 rai of her land cleared recently to make way for rubber too, which makes for a tiny plantation, but she just looks upon it as a bit of pocket money in her later years, and some family employment. So we're in the rubber business too.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by sabang
So we're in the rubber business too
I like the phrase "we're".

So you'll be up at midnight in a few years time complete with rubber boots, mosquito repellant, head lamp, long sleeves and tapping tools ready to go.

You'll get used to the snakes, rain, centipedes and spiders which makes up the nights entertainment.

Look forward to the nightly updates.....
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:19 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Rubber is the big growth crop around here, north of Ubon. Unfortunately we're losing forest, not paddy, to make way for it- I figured it was something to do with drainage, but your post confirmed that Jim. Mil (quite the environmentalist actually) surprised me by having 5 rai of her land cleared recently to make way for rubber too, which makes for a tiny plantation, but she just looks upon it as a bit of pocket money in her later years, and some family employment. So we're in the rubber business too.
Unfortunately, rubber farmers still aren't getting a decent value in return for their product.

Thai Rubber Mafia.
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:41 AM   #9 (permalink)
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James great post and very informative.
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Old 05-08-2012, 07:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rural Surin
Thai Rubber Mafia.
I'd like to hold a beauty contest between them and the Rice Mafia, the Cassava mafia, the Cashew nut Mafia, and the Sugar Mafia. No pineapples grown locally, so the Pineapple Mafia is disbarred.
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Old 05-08-2012, 07:33 AM   #11 (permalink)
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It could be a bit more informative if Jim was to give us an incite as to costs of farming rubber. It may sound good that one has 50 Rai of producing trees but give us details of the initial land purchase price, the cost of clearing the land, the 6 years it takes with no income before they produce, the yields, the actual price received when sold etc.
I really struggle to come to terms as to why farangs come Thailand and want to be farmers. The returns, if applied in the UK, they wouldn't bother getting out of bed. But that's just my opinion, and I wish luck to all who take up farming. You'll need it.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:20 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by superman
I really struggle to come to terms as to why farangs come Thailand and want to be farmers.
If you're a young chap like myself and wish to live or retire here with no employment or pension some income might be considered essential unless your bank account can survive.

If your Thai family can help with a small farm you can make enough to get by with a bit of common sense. That is a separate issue.

I bought a property with around 1,000 established rubber trees amongst other things 5 years ago and pretty much have been able to get by with two kids and the missus without raiding the bank.

I agree that starting with a bare piece of ground and no agricultural experience is a big ask in a foreign country and NOT recommended for the faint hearted.
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:42 PM   #13 (permalink)
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From what I see, the majority of farangs are not farmers and never will be. They basically want to just live here on the interest they get from their invested money along with their pension. That pisses of the Thai woman in that she needs all his money here to make life her easier in the event of his death. The chances of here seeing any money from his homeland after his death is remote to nigh impossible. So she starts the persuasive brain washing as to why he should invest all his savings in farming in Thailand.
As it stands, I see farangs let their wives/girlfriends buy land at ridiculous prices 200,000 Baht for one Rai of Sor Por Gor land. She don't care, she's just interested in getting all his money here. They start farming and only after a short time he realises that that the return on his money ain't as high as what he could be getting if he'd invested it, like he had before. Too late the land is in her name and she ain't about to give it up.
Anyways, one Rai of Sor Por Gor land will give a return tops of 1,500 Baht a year on most crops. Bearing that in mind, it should take ??? years plus to just break even having spent 200,000 Baht.
Nah, there's no money in farming.
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:09 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by superman View Post
It could be a bit more informative if Jim was to give us an incite as to costs of farming rubber. It may sound good that one has 50 Rai of producing trees but give us details of the initial land purchase price, the cost of clearing the land, the 6 years it takes with no income before they produce, the yields, the actual price received when sold etc.
I really struggle to come to terms as to why farangs come Thailand and want to be farmers. The returns, if applied in the UK, they wouldn't bother getting out of bed. But that's just my opinion, and I wish luck to all who take up farming. You'll need it.
Superman, you will have to wait till I write a book, there is a lot more to it than planting a few trees.
To be honest, if I were starting today, don't think I could afford to do it. Costs from land to fertilizer, labor etc just keep rising. Think I was just in the right place at the right time, saw the potential and went for it. There are 101 things that can go wrong and if you give up you are finished and all the money and effort is gone.
Was it worth all the effort, money and time, hell yes. I have not done a real days work, nor have I have to go back to OZ to work in 3 years. Have a nice house, nice, 7 Seat SUV, 2 young kids who go to a nice school and have a 24/7 dad and mother.
Last year we earned more in expendable income than I would have made as a Government employee in OZ. This year prices are down, but the rains have been kind. Out put will continue to rise over the next 5 to 6 years. Our 2nd sheet rubber sale will be next Wednesday, we should have about 2500 kilos for the month, price around or hopefully over 90 Baht a kilo RSS. Not rich by any means, but a hell of a lot better then working for another 10 years to retire on a dog food and baked beans pension.
I have a youtube channel and it cover sfrom start to last year. Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:41 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Thanks for the breakdown Jim. I meant no offense. Each to their own.

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if I were starting today, don't think I could afford to do it
The unfortunate thing is that farangs are still taking up farming due to them believing their missus that there's money to be made. The only money to be made is what she makes selling the land, once he's gone.
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:54 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Thanks for the breakdown Jim. I meant no offense. Each to their own.

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if I were starting today, don't think I could afford to do it
The unfortunate thing is that farangs are still taking up farming due to them believing their missus that there's money to be made. The only money to be made is what she makes selling the land, once he's gone.
Think you are painting all Thai women with a single brush. Just yesterday I was having a beer with a yank. Been married to a Thai girl 40 years, think she may have waited a bit too long to rip him off. Jim
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:05 PM   #17 (permalink)
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The unfortunate thing is that farangs are still taking up farming due to them believing their missus that there's money to be made. The only money to be made is what she makes selling the land, once he's gone.
To the contrary, Superman.
I know quite a number of Thais and Farang whom make a reasonably decent profit from farming/agriculture/horticulture/stock.

I believe that your deeper understanding of these circles is subliminally derived from old wives tales.

Certainly today, you will also find that a greater percentage of Thais will not give up their land [selling it obliviously] regardless of the situation.
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:12 PM   #18 (permalink)
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They basically want to just live here on the interest they get from their invested money along with their pension.
In this situation, there is only a matter of time till the crash
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:15 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by superman
Nah, there's no money in farming.
If you farm the same shit that everybody farms then this is true. If you use the great climate, modern farming methodss and worldwide seed banks - this is very untrue
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:27 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rural Surin
I believe that your deeper understanding of these circles is subliminally derived from old wives tales.
Nah, it's what I see in everyday Isaan. I'm generalizing about Thai women because proportionally, most are ripping their farangs off. They use the farming scenario as a tool in their arsenal. As I see it the Thais can't really make a living at farming so how can a farang, who knows naff, and make it work ?
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Originally Posted by Albert Shagnastier
In this situation, there is only a matter of time till the crash
Time will tell.

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Originally Posted by Albert Shagnastier
If you farm the same shit that everybody farms then this is true
So what other shit is on the table ? As I see it. if the Thais ain't growing it then there ain't no money in it. Or it can't be grown. Where I live it's Cassava and rice mainly.
This is how stupid farang are here. A farang bought some land, near me, for farming. Previously a forklift driver in the UK. His wife sold him the land that she already owned. On the land was a crop of Cassava. He paid extra for the Cassava when it should have come with the purchase. I'd already advised him against farming but his manipulative missus got her way. Anyways I can't tell him that his missus already owns the land and he comes literally crying to me that they're nothing but a bunch of lying shite, aresholes etc when the harvested Cassava came in at a loss. This cnut is still with his missus. And he ain't the only one.
I know other guy's. Tried everything, mushrooms, rubber, sugarcane, cassava, palm oil, bought tractors. Every one lost, or losing, money. They can't go back and their future looks dismal. Nah, there's no money in Thai farming. If there is, then it's so small, it ain't worth the hassle.

Last edited by superman : 06-08-2012 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:38 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamescollister
Think you are painting all Thai women with a single brush.
Your thoughts are important but generalizing isn't "painting all Thai women with a single brush"
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:47 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Think you are painting all Thai women with a single brush.
Your thoughts are important but generalizing isn't "painting all Thai women with a single brush"
Superman, you are right in much of what you say, the first priority for a Thai girl is to secure her [and families] future.
From her point of view the new farang can walk out the door, go into a bar and get a replacement the next day and she probably met him in a bar. Not a lot of security for her. I have seen the stupidity with my own eyes, If you read my blog, I tell the story of the yank, first time in Thailand, first go go bar, meets tall leggy hot babe. 2 weeks later he buys a operating 25 rai plantation, 4 mil. and heads back to the US.
When he returns a few months later, hot go go dancer has reverted to Thai village girl and he can't wait to go back to Pattaya.
Her future is now secure, no more go go bars, he is 4 or 5 mil down and none the wiser. That's life for the unwary, not just in Thailand, but anywhere, that sad lonely men meet a girl that they can only dream of in their home lands. Jim
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:36 PM   #23 (permalink)
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you make some good points, but thais not making a living on rubber isnt accurate. In the Buengkan (that be beeeeuuuteeeful bungkan to outsiders until it's too late) there are more new pickup trucks and construction that I've seen in the ussa in the past 5 years. The place is still rather small but seems to be growing quickly on the back of the rubber business.
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:52 PM   #24 (permalink)
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interesting thread! I know this is probably too wide open a question but could anyone give a price range per rai of sor por kor land, currently not used in issan?

i await deserved sarcastic comments..........
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Old 08-08-2012, 07:28 PM   #25 (permalink)
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interesting thread! I know this is probably too wide open a question but could anyone give a price range per rai of sor por kor land, currently not used in issan?

i await deserved sarcastic comments..........
Hi there, first big problem with sor por gor is if the user does not use the land he technically loses it. The title is a right to farm that land and can not be sold as the Crown owns it.
Now for as long as there have been land titles of any sort people have sold the land to others. Allegedly the land can only be inherited or transferred to another family member to use.
The reality is somewhat different, the word family seems to stretch a fair way. Now when the charnot people come to give free hold, at least in theses parts, they appear to take little interest in the older titles as long as there is no disputes.
So there is a risk in buying such land. As for price, hard to say, but out here at the end of nowhere good rubber land goes for around 100,000 a rai. Prices drop fast for rice land etc
Not much help really, so step carefully, you may win or you could lose. Jim
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