Insects have been on the menu in Thailand for ages and recently they have migrated from the forests to commercial farms and factories. There are around 20,000 cricket farmers in the north-east of Thailand. Over the past 15 years, Thailand, a leader in the region in terms of farming insects and processing them, makes in average 7,500 tons a year of insects – mainly crickets, palm weevils and bamboo caterpillars.
Thailand's bug business is relatively well-established with impressive market logistics in place nationwide but it is also unpredictable. Like other commercially raised animals, crickets are vulnerable to illnesses and weather changes, but unlike chickens and cattle, little is known about farming them.
Insects are becoming a popular snack at tourist spots, such as Khao Sarn Road, a backpacker’s hangout in Bangkok and are generally sold on carts on the street along with other delicacies such as water bugs and silk larvae. Upcountry, they are sold in stalls along the highway. The most popular method of cooking is to deep-fry crickets in oil and then sprinkle them with lemongrass slivers and chillies. They are crunchy and taste like fried shrimp.
The UN agency has been promoting insects as an alternative source of food for both people and livestock for the past decade. The food production will need to increase 60 per cent from current levels to meet global food requirements by 2050. Not only does this type of farming have less impact on the environment than many other meat source farming, the insects are also very high in protein, vitamins and minerals necessary for a good diet. (EPA/NARONG SANGNAK)