Laos recorded a trade surplus in the first three months of this year, despite the continuing depreciation of the kip and rising the cost of production and consumables.

In January, the trade surplus was recorded at $41 million, rising to $48 million in February and $78.3 million in March, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

The total value of goods imported and exported in January reached $1.155 billion, of which exports were valued at $598 million and imports at $557 million. The total trade value in February was $989 million, including $519 million of exported goods and $471 million of imported goods. Last month, the total value of trade was recorded at $1.077 billion, comprising $577.8 million in exports and $499.5 million in imports.

These statistics do not include the value of electricity exported and will be updated when this information becomes available.

Laos’ main export products are gold, gold bars, paper and paper products, copper ore, rubber, cassava, iron ore, bananas, clothing, shoes, and copper and copper items.

The main items imported are vehicles (other than motorcycles and tractors), diesel and mechanical equipment (other than motor vehicles), precious and semi-precious stones, wood and paper scraps, auto parts (including tyres, windshields and chains), plastic products, electronic equipment and electrical appliances, petrol, and chemical products.

Laos’ five top export markets are China, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and India, while the main countries from which goods are imported are Thailand, China, Vietnam, Switzerland and the USA.

The government is aiming for a trade surplus of at least $1.55 billion this year despite the country’s economic difficulties triggered in part by the Covid-19 pandemic. The value of exports is projected to reach $7.6 billion while the value of imports is forecast at $6.05 billion, according to a recent report from the Prime Minister’s Office.

To achieve this goal, the government has pledged to boost agricultural production and the processing of goods for export, especially to China, whose markets can now be more easily accessed via the Laos-China Railway.

China is a key export market for Lao goods, especially agricultural produce, with trade boosted following the opening of the railway at the end of 2021.

The sectors involved have been instructed to help businesses access funding, apply science and technology to production, and help producers to find markets.

In recent decades, the government has attempted to increase exports while minimising imports so as to earn more foreign currency.

In 2021, Laos recorded a trade surplus of $1 billion, with the value of exports amounting to $7 billion and imports valued at $6 billion.