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Thailand’s Sacred Oxen Forecast Bountiful Crops

Sacred Thai oxen predicted good fortunes for the coming year on May 13 with abundant rains and healthy crops, in stark contrast to other forecasts calling for crops to shrink during a ravaging drought.

The ancient plowing ceremony in Buddhist Thailand, overseen by Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, marks the end of the dry season and is meant to herald an auspicious start for the rice-planting season for the world’s biggest rice exporter.

In a ritual outside the gilded pagodas of Bangkok’s Grand Palace telecast live on television, the oxen plowed a symbolic furrow in the dusty ground then tucked into grass off banana-leaf platters, signifying a bountiful harvest.

Offered a range of dishes, the Thai bulls steered clear of alcohol – which signifies trade and transport – but also turned up their noses at a plate of rice, the staple diet of the Southeast Asian nation’s 64 million people.

“This signifies an ample water supply and sufficient crops,” a senior Agriculture Ministry official reported to the prince.

Last year, the cows got it spot on with their prediction of an abundant rice harvest.

This year’s prediction contrasts with forecasts by the Meteorological and the Agricultural departments which expect a severe dry spell caused by the El Nińo weather phenomenon to shrink this year’s harvest. Thailand expects to see a small drop in its 2010-11 main rice crop of around 22 million tonnes, down from the previous forecast of 23.2 million tonnes, due to drought and the spread of pests.

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