The number of coffee plantations under the Lao Coffee Association (LCA) has decreased by around five to 10 per cent in the first five months of this year as growers shifted to cassava for better incomes.
With the price of Lao coffee falling and facing challenges posed by coffee larva, and types of Polyphagozerra coffeae and Acalolepta cervina in recent years, some farmers have shifted from coffee to grow other commercial crops, LCA studies found.
But the value of coffee exported by Laos increased as the price of local coffee beans was better this year, said LCA main coordinator Sivilay Xayasaeng.
During the first five months of last year, Laos exported almost 12,000 tonnes of coffee worth around $24.9 million, and the figure increased this year to almost 20,000 tonnes worth $37 million. This year’s exports included the Arabica, Robusta, Exelsa and Roasted varieties.
In the case of Arabica coffee, especially the red beans that companies in Laos bought from farmers, the highest price was 3,200 kip ($0.35) and the lowest price was 2,800 kip in December last year.
At the same time, the highest and lowest prices of white beans were 16,500 kip and 15,000 kip, respectively, while the prices for Robusta were 12,500 kip and 11,000 kip, respectively.
Vietnam is largest foreign market for Laos, accounting for 65 per cent of the total coffee exports, followed by Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Belgium, Switzerland and the US.
Coffee plantations in Champasak province currently cover 50,250ha, 19,716ha in Saravan province, 10,131ha in Sekong province and 2,216ha in Attapeu province.
Champasak borders Cambodia along Choam Ksan and Chheb districts in Preah Vihear province, as well as Thala Barivat and Siem Pang districts and Stung Treng town in Stung Treng province.
Attapeu borders the Kingdom along Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district and Ratanakkiri province’s Taveng and Veun Sai districts.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most Lao coffee producers have faced a shortage of workers to care for their farms because most of the labour comes from other provinces, said the LCA.
After placing orders, some importers suspended them until the situation returns to normal, while some cancelled their orders, it said. The companies cannot find new customers because of the government’s strict measures to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.
Coffee is one of the top revenue earners among all the agricultural products exported by Laos. The quality of Lao coffee products has improved because of the cooperation and support of government organisations and the private sector.
Coffee is also being included as part of the wider socio-economic development goals framed by the Lao government to boost the overseas expansion of domestic firms.
While challenges remain, there are clear efforts to realise the Lao government’s efforts to boost the coffee industry. However, most farmers are still producing their crops using local techniques, which result in lower yields.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK