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

Govt vows to assist farmers, producers

Source: Vientiane Times, 22 September 2017.

Assisting farmers and producers is one of the government’s top priorities in driving commercial productivity and boosting exports, a senior official has said.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Lien Thikeo told media recently that the agricultural promotion policy needs to be implemented effectively to help farmers and businesses enhance productivity.

Enforcement of the Prime Minister’s Order No. 15 issued on May 13, 2016, has had a positive impact. Many entrepreneurs are now using their land, on which they previously operated a timber business, to raise cattle and pigs, he said.

Farmers and producers in different regions are also growing grass to feed their cattle. We found that the area of grass grown rose from 5,000 hectares last year to 21,000 hectares this year.

Dr Lien said the demand for Lao beef in Vietnam was quite high but Laos was unable to supply the quantity required.

One of the main challenges is that the price of beef at local markets is 70,000 kip per kg but farmers can sell their cattle for just 30,000 kip per kg to middlemen (traders).

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is studying this price discrepancy in a bid to ensure fair trade and enable farmers to benefit appropriately.

I’m discussing with local authorities the possibility of organising fairs where farmers and producers can bring their cattle and other livestock to sell. They can also compare prices with one another, Dr Lien said.

The ministry is also considering the construction of modern slaughterhouses, as more efficient processes would add value to beef and pork while ensuring better quality for consumers.

The ministry will also encourage farmers to set up producers’ groups so they won’t be taken advantage of by traders.

Concerning the rearing of pigs, fish, poultry and other animals, the minister said the government would do its best to promote livestock farming.

Animal feed factories in Vientiane and Oudomxay province can supply about 30 percent of the demand for animal feed in Laos.

With regard to organic vegetable farming, the government will make sure that farmers and producers have permanent places to sell their organic crops.

We are trying to strengthen organic production groups so that growers have access to funding and expertise and can improve yields. It’s also important that they are able to help one another to inspect crops and prevent contaminated vegetables from being sold at markets, as this would adversely affect their business, Dr Lien said.

Concerning ways that Laos could benefit by supplying food to workers building the railway linking Vientiane to the Chinese border, Dr Lien said he had recently travelled to several northern provinces to discuss the matter with local authorities and businesses.

However, Dr Lien did not spell out any detailed plans as to how Laos might benefit from the US$5.8-billion railway, which is slated for completion in 2021.

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