No bull: oxen soothsayers predict rains and a prosperous Thai economy

Thailand’s annual plowing ceremony on Monday forecast average rainfall, growth in foreign trade and abundant rice as the country struggles with drought and a shaky economy. Amid pomp and ceremony two white bulls hitched to a wooden plow furrowed earth at Sanam Luang, an open area in Bangkok, as Hindu priests sowed rice seeds. At the ceremony, an ancient rite which dates back hundreds of years and nowadays mixes Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, the bulls were offered seven types of food and drink, including hay, water and rice liquor. Depending on what the animals eat and drink, a prediction is made by the priests and astrologers for the upcoming harvest.

This year there will be enough water, rice will be abundant and cereals and fruit bountiful.

Sakchai Sriboonsue, of the Ministry of Agriculture

Farmers in the largely agrarian economy are likely to welcome the news. Thailand is suffering from its worst drought in two decades with 30 out of 76 provinces affected, according to the Interior Ministry. Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy remains on shaky ground two years after the military took power in a bloodless May 2014 coup, with weak exports and consumption hurting growth. The arrival of La Niña, the cold phase of tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, by mid-year could bring more rainfall to regions such as Southeast Asia.