A Thai farmer explains how his Chinese motorcycle improved his business and changed his life.


In the lush, hilly countryside of Northern Thailand, in a town called Mea Jadee lives Mr. Pene. For the last three years Mr. Pene has grown his business from humble beginnings to an in-demand service that now turns over enough revenue to afford him a few luxuries like a small tractor and an extension to his traditional timber Thai home. With the help of a translator we asked for him to give us an account of his experiences.

At 56, Mr. Pene has spent the majority of his working life as a farmer growing rice and potatoes on the fertile lands that he leases nearby his property, he begins “When I was a younger man than I am today, the work was really hard. All day long my brother and I worked the fields sowing seeds and bulbs, digging irrigation trenches and harvesting the crop once the time had come. There’s a long period in between planting and harvesting where very little needs to be done other than regular crop inspection. It was during this time a few years ago that I decided that I was becoming too old for the laborious nature of farming and decided that I could branch out with a small investment.”

I was told how, in the past, the aging Pene brothers had grown everything from watermelons to ginger in the hope of turning a profit and stepping up their business but nothing really came through for them. Pene recalls “For years we used an old Toyota pickup truck to ferry around our produce from field to market but no matter how hard we worked we never got ahead. The truck was run down and struggled more and more over the years and though it is still running today, it’s in no fit state to be lugging half a ton of potatoes up and down the mountains. With the small amount of saving I had managed to put aside I gave up the farming business and invested in seeds and bulbs, fertilisers and pesticides.”

Thailand is the largest exporter of rice in the world and many of the country’s land workers grow rice, among other fruit, grain and vegetables for domestic use. Seeing the need locally for the supply of fertilisers and pesticides the Penes did a bit of research and decided they needed something better than the old truck to make their deliveries. “Because most farmers work one field at a time they will only order what they need for that particular time, it’s often only one or two sacks of products. The motorcycle seemed the perfect vehicle for transporting the sacks to our customers as the truck was too big to fit down many of the narrow lanes which lead to the open fields. On top of that the walkways between paddies are only a metre wide and will only take a motorcycle or a bicycle.”

I asked what brought about the decision to buy a Chinese bike over the domestically built Honda’s, like the 125cc Dream or Wave, which are so popular here. “We did want a Honda initially but wanted to buy new and after spending most of our budget on stock the only available option was a Chinese bike which was around $200 cheaper than a Honda or Yamaha. People had told us that some companies had a reputation for poor quality so we bought a Ryuka (Zongshen’s brand name in Thailand), a simple cub that wouldn’t be hard to fix if anything happened to go wrong.”

The purchase of the Chinese cub was almost three years ago so I asked how it faired and how it assisted in growing their business. Mr Pene’s younger brother replies, “It has only had one major issue and that was when I put diesel in the fuel tank. I was a little bit drunk and picked up the wrong fuel can; obviously the diesel is for the truck.” They both started laughing about the situation and continued, “I’d only dropped a cup-full into the tank before realising what I had done so I quickly put the diesel away and filled the rest of the tank with 91 (petrol), like it is supposed to have. I didn’t tell me brother because I was worried that if the motorcycle broke down I would have to pay for the repairs.”

Shaking his head at his brother, but with a grin, Mr Pene goes on, “I had been into town and on my return the engine began to splutter and cut out several times. Once I got home I grabbed the fuel can, thinking the bike was empty, but saw that there was plenty of fuel left in it. It was then that my brother told me about his mistake with the diesel and I was rather angry about it. The next day the bike ran fine and it hasn’t had a problem since. Easily as reliable as a Honda so far, and $200 less! It doesn’t really get much maintenance and has ridden through plenty of muddy fields but it doesn’t seem to bother it.”

“Being able to deliver much faster and to the fields where the farmers need the fertilizers has been very good for business. All of these farms you see in this town buy from me and that all results in more profit! With the extra income I have been able to purchase a tractor-plough that I rent out for a daily fee. Now, when I get a new customer who orders seeds I can also offer them the tractor to prepare the land for planting, which many of them will accept. Business has never been better. If sales keep going the way they are I may have to buy another motorcycle for my brother so we can meet all the demands of our customers, and, quite frankly, even though I could probably afford a new Honda right now, I would most likely buy another Chinese cub and save myself $200.”

March 21, 2016