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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    27 June 2012

Agri and Land reforms needed, says Laos PM


Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong has seen the need to reform agricultural production processes from small sized units to larger production areas in order to improve the commercial potential of land.

Responding to questions from National Assembly members on Monday, the prime minister said one of the most important points was to establish a policy related to land use by grouping together small plots of land to create larger areas for bigger and more efficient production.

He said that without grouping the plots together it would be difficult for the country to conduct agricultural production at the commercial levels necessary to lead towards modernisation and industrialisation.

“Laos is an agricultural nation so we want to use most of our available land for agriculture,” he said.

“Our policy is to move the country towards industrialisation and modernisation and change from small production units to larger ones to improve efficiency and bolster commercial benefit, so the land policy needs to be reviewed.”

The current problem is that most land plots in Laos are small and scattered and are considered unsuitable for large scale production.

“We need to combine them and to use modern technology to improve the efficiency of production. I think that we need to change our thinking as well.”

The PM said it would be difficult to ensure a development project did not encroach on villagers' land when implementing the new policy but he agreed that any compensation must be fair to the families affected.

“We need to study this very carefully,” he said.

Thongsing also touched on the government's intention to focus on agricultural production, especially rice, in the three flatland areas of Thongmang, Khammuan and Savannakhet, to ensure food security.

He said Laos is an agricultural nation and most people rely on local produce, particularly rice, but in some areas not enough rice is being grown to feed the local population.

“Although the country as a whole has enough rice to eat we still cannot produce sufficient for export.”

Thongsing also talked about the government's policy to bolster agricultural production to reduce imports, before talking about measures to control product prices in markets.

He said that when traders had heard that the government intended to increase salaries for state employees, some of them immediately raised their prices.

The prime minister also talked about illegal logging which is considered a chronic problem in Laos.

“It is like a serious disease which is hard to cure. How to get rid of the disease is the problem we are working on because if we do nothing, it could be very damaging to our health.”

The prime minister said one of the most important things is to ensure that no raw timber or partially processed wood is exported. All wood must be processed in Lao mills to add value prior to export.

“We should all share in the responsibility for this. Local authorities have a key role to play in addressing illegal logging.”

The problem mostly occurs in rural areas where villagers cut trees to sell to foreign businesses.

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