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Food concerns after Laos floods

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A flood victim receives food aid from Laotian relief pesonnel in Attapeu province, on July . MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP

Food concerns after Laos floods

Vientiane times/ANN: Natural disasters pose a threat to people in many parts of Laos and authorities are scrambling to carry our relief and repair operations in provinces that have been affected by floods.

In such situation, people usually worry about inadequate food supplies because the floods have damaged farmlands and killed livestock.

We have seen the authorities are trying to control the prices of goods by advising traders to follow official regulations, but this is difficult when market mechanisms are affected by any sort of imbalance.

Controlling prices alone is not an effective way to deal with this issue, many people believe. If there are a lot of supplies of goods in markets, products will be cheaper.

At the moment, consumers are paying more for rice, vegetables and fish due to the strong demand for these goods. Many producing areas cannot supply these goods as a result of the floods and damage to transportation links. Experts have projected that this effect will continue till next year’s harvesting season.

If the production season faces the same or worse impacts next year, food shortages will continue to increase and there will be more pressure on consumers, including inflation.

According to the owner of a rice processing enterprise in Xaythany district of Vientiane that supplies the local markets, grain is now more expensive than last year and it is more difficult to find and buy it.

Mrs Bounhieng Phommixay said she now pays 5,000 kip for one kilogram of non-sticky paddy, up from 2,000 kip to 2,500 kip during last year’s rainy season. She also pays 3,000 kip to 3,500 kip for one kilogram of sticky paddy, up from 2,000 kip to 2,500 kip.

The wet season is the main period for production of rice. Farmers work hard on their rice farms, but large areas in many provinces have been hit by floods.

To address this issue of insufficient stocks of food, authorities must frame a plan and take steps quickly to boost agricultural production in the coming dry season, from the end of this year until next May. Yields from the dry season can help manage the prices of food if there is enough supply to meet all the demand. The responsible sector must turn the crisis created by the floods into an opportunity.

All barriers and obstacles to agricultural production must be removed and all irrigation systems must be checked and fixed to ensure they can irrigate large tracts of agricultural land.

Cooperation among State organisations to promote production and supply is very important. If the yield is good, the movement of produce from farms to markets must be smooth.

Therefore, all authorities must work together to come up with a special policy and measures to boost production for commercial purposes according to the policies of the government. For example, they need to consider how to help farmers through tax cuts or customs exemption for all imported agricultural equipment and goods such as fertilisers or machines.

State authorities are not necessary for supplying fertilisers to farmers. Creating an incentive policy for them is not enough.

Other factors such as electricity or water supply bills and interest rates are matters that can be discussed to find a suitable solution.

Farmers or traders who transport goods across the country should receive special facilities. All factors created by some State organisations that contribute to higher costs must be removed.

The most important thing is that every sector must implement the same roadmap to boost agricultural production.

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