ACMECS cooperation to improve rice quality in Laos
Cooperation in rice production under the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) will enable Laos to improve its rice varieties and use better cultivation techniques, resulting in higher yields.
Under the cooperation framework, farmers in Laos will be able to access advanced technology, an official from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Mr Anouphath Sayasensouk, told Vientiane Times yesterday.
At present, the production target of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is for farmers to harvest an average of 3-4 tonnes of rice per hectare.
It is envisaged that regional cooperation under the ACMECS framework will improve the quality of rice grown in Laos and lead to higher yields. The of the harvested crop should be sufficient for both domestic supply and export.
The quality of rice grown in Laos at present is relatively poor because of a lack of modern cultivation techniques. Most farmers still grow rice using traditional methods. They grow enough for th eir family needs and sell any surplus in local markets.
Farmers have been able to produce high yields, but the rice is not of sufficient quality or quantity for export markets.
The government has asked the Vietnamese government for help with improving seed varieties, aiming to improve quality and boost exp orts.
Although the government has worked with the relevant bodies to encourage farmers to use more modern techniques, more help is needed to improve rice varieties and provide accesses to new technology. Only when this is achieved will Laos be able to develop an industry from the cultivation of rice.
If Laos can produce better quality rice varieties and adopt more efficient farming methods, it should be well placed to sell rice to neighbouring countries and further afield.
Rice is a commercial crop in Laos and farmers engage in border trade. However, there are no official figures on the volume of this trade.
To improve the quality of its rice so the crop can be exported and Laos can be competitive internationally, the government is cooperating with Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia so that each country can benefit from the other's experience.
At the end of this month, Laos will host a meeting of the ministers of industry and commerce from each of the five countries in Champassak province, Mr Anouphath said.
This will be the second such meeting after the one held in Cambodia last year. The aim of the gathering is to cooperate towards the processing of rice for export to other Asean countries and obtain secure markets for the crop