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Laos’ rice exports are expected to plummet

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Laos set a target of $45.6 million for rice exports last year but could only achieve $31.4 million. VIENTIANE TIMES

Laos’ rice exports are expected to plummet

LAOS is anticipating reduced income from rice exports this year in the wake of widespread flooding across the country last year.

The country set a target of $45.6 million for rice exports last year but could only achieve $31.4 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

This year, the government is expecting to earn only $25.2 million from rice exports, a significant decline compared to last year’s figure.

Low rice yields in 16 provinces have been attributed to widespread flooding in the rainy season, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported.

Some 101,000ha of rice were affected by last year’s floods, about 12 per cent of the total planted area of 817,800ha.

About 66,000ha of the rice crop was estimated to have been destroyed by floods.

Last year, the government set a rice production target of 4.2 million tonnes and hit about 3.6 million tonnes or 86 per cent of the plan.

China is potentially a huge market for Lao rice but has stringent requirements as far as quality is concerned.

Laos’ rice exports to China hit $14.2 million in 2016, dropped to $5.6 million in 2017, and sank to about $5 million last year.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Khemmani Pholsena recently requested that China consider a rice import quota of 50,000 tonnes along with accepting other industrial goods as part of efforts to bolster bilateral trade.

The call for the increased rice quota comes after 20,000 tonnes were shipped to the northern neighbour in 2017 by China’s Xuanye (Lao) Co Ltd following approval by China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

Vietnam and Thailand are also significant markets for the Lao-grown staple.

Rice is an important commercial crop for the Lao market and for export, along with coffee, corn, bananas, sugarcane, cassava and rubber.

Local estimates expect the agriculture sector to expand by at least three per cent this year if Laos does not encounter any natural disasters.

According to the Asian Development Outlook 2019 forecast, the agriculture sector is expected to expand by 2.5 per cent.

The sector has grown gradually, but fell from a growth rate of 2.9 per cent in 2017 to 2.5 per cent last year, the National Institute for Economic Research reported. VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN

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