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

Farmers’ groups help ensure fairness for rubber families

Vientiane Times, 4 July, 2013

Rubber growers in Luang Namtha province will receive more benefits from selling their rubber products after the province recently began to implement a policy on establishing farmers’ groups, as well as registering middlemen and purchasing companies. The policy will make it easier for the provincial industry and commerce sector to manage rubber trading within the province, an Industry and Commerce Department official, Mr Faeng Souriyacheualui told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Establishing farmers’ groups will help guarantee the price farmers receive for their rubber, prevent companies from cheating on the purchase prices and allow farmers to purchase equipment more easily. Currently, the province has set up provincial and district rubber management committees to formulate measures to regulate the sector and resolve the problems of rubber trading, Mr Faeng said.

Provincial, district and village level authorities should all monitor rubber trading and inform the sale prices received for rubber products through the provincial Industry and Commerce Department, he explained. This measure will make it easier for the industry and commerce sector to collect information about the buyers, companies, farmers’ groups and the extent of rubber trading, especially for export.

The provincial Department of Industry and Commerce has already set up a rubber farmer’s group in Had-nhao village is model and plan to expand them to priority areas of the province, he explained. In the past, farmers have sold their raw rubber independently without entering into contracts with companies or government agencies, Mr Faeng said.

Recently, different provinces have learnt lessons about rubber farm management. Rubber farmers in Phongsaly experienced difficulties in recent months as they lacked proper marketing and couldn’t guarantee a minimum price for their rubber.  Meanwhile many families in Luang Namtha who grow rubber have had trouble finding buyers recently and the department has experienced difficulties managing the issue and lacks figures on rubber exports.

Buyers and traders will pay high prices for rubber when there is a shortage of rubber products, but if more farmers plant rubber an oversupply develops, meaning farmers get less for their rubber.

Luang Namtha has two rubber processing factories and another is preparing to open soon, with most backed by Chinese investors. In the first six months of this fiscal year, 2012-2013, Luang Namtha exported 266 tonnes of sheet rubber, worth more than US$900,000, 1,105 tonnes of half-processed rubber, worth about US$3,000,000, and 799 tonnes of lump rubber, worth US$990,000. The province now has around 32,000 hectares of rubber plantation.

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