Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Phongsaly rubber farmers seek buyers

Vientiane Times, 9 May, 2013

Rubber farmers in Phongsaly province are looking for buyers for their raw rubber after hundreds of kilogrammes they attempted to trade across the Chinese border were seized by Chinese customs officials. Rubber trees planted by farmers in several districts are now ready for harvesting but no company has come forward with a purchase order.

The farmers’ raw rubber were seized by Chinese customs officials at the border because the country has no set quota for rubber imports, provincial forestry section Head Mr Nayphet Boupha told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Farmers have also said they have been cheated on the purchase price by Chinese traders when taking their rubber to sell at the border checkpoint recently. To solve the problem, the provincial authorities, especially the industry and commerce and agriculture and forestry sectors, are planning to set up rubber farmers’ groups, Mr Nayphet said.

The creation of such groups would make it easier for farmers to sell their rubber for a guaranteed price, as provincial authorities would hold talks with Chinese government officials to discuss the trading of rubber. In the past, farmers have sold their rubber independently without entering into contracts with companies and government agencies, said Mr Nayphet. Many families who grow rubber have had trouble finding buyers recently, he added.

A Chinese company is building a rubber-processing factory in Phongsaly province and he hoped processing would begin next year. Farmers are hoping the factory will soon be completed so they can sell their products to the company. Rubber plantations now cover more than 17,000 hectares in the province, including local farmers’ land and plantations managed by foreign companies, Mr Nayphet noted.

Rubber brings in additional money for farmers as a supplement to their earnings from rice cultivation. However, the government recently called a halt to land concessions for rubber and eucalyptus plantations, aiming for more appropriate land use and environmental protection.

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