Lao authorities have ensured that this year bananas continue to be the top earner among all agricultural exports to China despite the government banning more banana plantations.
Laos exported bananas to China to the tune of $116 million in the first seven months of this year, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reported. Last year Laos earned around $185.6 million.
Despite the number of investors and banana plantations within the country decreasing after the government enforced a ban on granting land for new plantations and shut down companies that had violated regulations the export value of banana has remained high.
This year trading between Laos and China has been hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but exporting goods, especially bananas, is still faring well due to good cooperation and negotiation between Lao and Chinese authorities.
The agricultural strategy for 2025 states that bananas are a top agricultural export earner, creating job opportunities, and generating income for local people so they can rise above poverty.
But some plantations harmed the environment because of a lack of management by the government, incomplete land allocation, and lax business registration. For this reason, traders and investors were encouraged to enter into contracts with farming families to grow the crop.
But regulations have not been enforced, especially those relating to enterprises, investment promotions, chemical management, plant protection, consumer protection and environmental protection.
In 2014, the Prime Minister’s Office instructed the governors of northern provinces to ban individuals and companies from leasing or obtaining concessions for rice fields in irrigated areas for banana plantations.
In 2015, the office issued an additional notice on the use of herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals on banana plantations.
In 2016, it issued a further notice aimed at resolving environmental issues and the impact of banana plantations.
Following the three notices, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry appointed technical teams and experts from the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute to conduct inspections of banana plantations in the northern provinces of Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Bokeo, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Xayaboury.
The study showed that banana farming by ethnic groups is a long-standing practice. They traditional use of banana leaves is to make “mark beng” (handmade pyramids of banana leaves decorated with flowers) for religious rituals and to wrap confections, while the stems and branches are used to make animal feed.
The three notices led many banana growers to believe that the government had banned the cultivation of bananas, but in fact the ban only concerned bananas grown in rice fields.
Banana plantations should follow good agricultural practices in line with the government’s clean, green and sustainable policies.
Growers should use herbicides and pesticides of a particular standard and should not use chemicals that the government has banned, especially Paraquat and DDT.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK