Laos rice production falls short of target
The Lao government is aiming to boost rice yields so the crop can be exported, but while harvests are improving, Lao farmers have been unable to reach the targets set in recent years.
Somsavat Lengsavad visits a trade fair held on the sidelines of a national meeting in Khammuan province this week.
In fiscal year 2011-12, the government set the rice production target at 3.6 million tonnes, but the total yield amounted to only 3.4 million tonnes despite the government's efforts to expand farmland and introduce new techniques to enhance yields.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry released a report on the issue on Monday at a national meeting held in Khammuan province, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad. The meeting ends today.
The ministry attributed the shortfall to the damage caused by the storms Haima and Nock-ten which struck Laos in 2011 and were considered to be the worst in decades.
The storms destroyed a large amount of infrastructure, including irrigation systems.
The government provided 70 billion kip (US$8.8 million) to repair the broken irrigation systems, but the approval process was so slow that the authorities were unable to finish the repairs in time for the dry season rice crop.
The ministry also attributed the shortfall to the prolonged dry season and low price of rice in 2012, which discouraged farmers from growing more of the crop.
In addition, the cost of rice production rose from 7.5 million kip per hectare in 2010 to 8.5 million kip, mainly due to the rising cost of fertiliser.
In 2012, Laos was again struck by severe wet season flooding, which damaged about 1,200 hectares of rice fields mostly in the northern provinces.
Despite the shortfall, the government has continued to set ambitious goals by adding 200,000 tonnes to the target yield each year.
This means the target for this fiscal year is 3.8 million tonnes; in 2013-14 it is 4 million; and in 2014-15 it is 4.2 million tonnes.
Laos aims to become a rice exporter over the next decade if it can maintain current grain production and consumption growth rates, according to an Asian Development Bank funded study.
Last year Laos announced its intention to join Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia in setting up a rice exporting cooperative to sell rice to international markets.
At present, Laos has more than 700,000 hectares of paddy fields with an average production capacity of 3 tonnes per hectare.
The government is working with farmers to improve yields so that Laos can become an exporter in the future.
During this week's meeting, Somsavat urged local authorities to review the potential of their provinces and to address problems related to rice production.
All the sectors involved need to work harder to help farmers boost yields and apply the best lessons learned from other countries as well as improve the quality of rice production.