Vientiane Times, March 15, 2012
Luang Namtha provincial authorities have directed the agriculture and forestry sector to advise farmers not to expand their banana fields into irrigated areas, which are needed for rice cultivation. “In Long district, more than 100 hectares of banana trees have been planted in irrigated areas,” provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department official Mr Thouang Nambongsa told Vientiane Times yesterday. “Bananas require a long time to mature before they can be harvested, whereas rice can be harvested within just three months,” he added.
Chinese businesses are currently working with provincial farmers, particularly in Long district, to grow more than 400 hectares of bananas for export to China, said Mr Thouang. It has been five years since farmers started planting banana trees, and they have been harvesting the fruit for the past four years. The provincial authorities are allowing Chinese companies to work with farmers to grow crops in irrigated areas if they take only a short time to mature, such as watermelons, pumpkin, and beans. But bananas, which require much longer to mature, are not allowed.
Mr Thouang added “The irrigation system has the capacity to water about 2,000 hectares of dry season rice, but currently only about 500 hectares are under cultivation. This is because farmers are now growing more commercial crops because they bring in more income than rice.”
The Vietnamese Zone II Military 705 International Cooperation Company has provided about 249 billion kip to build the Nam Ma-Oun and Nam Nha irrigation projects in Sing district, which will help to expand the amount of rice under cultivation in the province. Investment from Chinese companies, especially in commercial crops, is booming in Luang Namtha province, but there is a shortage of skilled management and regulatory measures. Chinese companies invest mainly in rubber, sweetcorn, cassava, watermelons and beans, to meet the demands of their factories in China.
Luang Namtha province has about 29,000 hectares of rubber plantations, established by domestic and Chinese businesses. About 10,000 hectares are now ready to harvest, while the rest of the trees will mature between 2015 and 2020.