Bananas were the highest earner, bringing in $225 million, while the export of rubber earned $214 million, cassava sales brought in $196 million, sugarcane earned $25 million, and watermelon exports earned $26 million.
The figures were reported by Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Sonexay Siphandone at the recent open meeting held by the government, which was attended by cabinet members and provincial governors.
In addition, the export of 8,100 cattle and buffaloes earned 33.9 billion kip ($3 million), of which 1,992 cattle and 21 buffaloes were sold to China. Under an intergovernmental agreement, China has given Laos an export quota of 500,000 cattle.
But with only about 2,000 animals sold to China last year, it is clear that Laos is falling far short of the export quota as farmers face challenges in raising more cattle and buffalo to meet China’s needs. The sale of livestock to China was also hampered by an outbreak of lumpy skin disease in cattle and restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the outbreak of lumpy skin disease is now under control and Laos is no longer on the list compiled by the World Organisation for Animal Health which names countries where the disease is prevalent.
The government is also in talks with Chinese authorities over both animal and plant health regulations in relation to exports to China.
Last year, central and local government bodies made a strong push for businesses and farmers to operate on a commercial basis so they could produce more animals and crops for supply to the domestic market and processing factories.
The government is also placing a strong focus on livestock breeding for export purposes as well as increased agricultural production to reduce the amount of goods imported by Laos.
This area of focus is high on the government’s agenda as part of efforts to resolve its economic and financial difficulties. It is hoped that the Laos-China railway will speed up the export of agricultural products this year and help to boost trade between Laos and China.
Various fruits and vegetables grown in Laos have been listed in a priority grouping for sale to China.
China is a key purchaser of agricultural products from Laos and accounts for more than 80 per cent of Laos’ exports, with the main crops sold to China being cassava, bananas, watermelons, sugarcane and rubber.