Laos transforming farming to meet needs of ASEAN market

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The government is transforming the farming system in Laos from subsistence to commercial crop production to meet the needs of the ASEAN market and to help Lao farmers cope with changes in regional agricultural and food markets.

To support the process of agricultural development, the government, especially the Department of Agriculture (DOA) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, is providing policy and technical support for implementing programmes, the DOA Deputy Director General, Mr Chantha Thipphavongphanh, said when addressing the second meeting of the national project steering committee.

The meeting, under the theme "Agricultural transformation and market integration in the ASEAN region: responding to food security and inclusiveness concerns", was held in Vientiane on Wednesday.

Agricultural transformation and market integration (ATMI) in the ASEAN region and responding to food security and inclusiveness concerns is one of the programmes for supporting and contributing to agricultural development in Laos and ASEAN through policy study support, he said.

Participants discussed the maize value chain analysis done in Xieng Khuang province by a team from the Faculty of Agriculture in cooperation with the DOA. The analysis was done after the project plan was approved at the first national project steering committee meeting last November.

The study focused on the background of the area, productivity and production of maize in Laos, key driving forces for expansion, export value of industrial crops and maize, problem statements, trading, transportation and challenges.

Maize is one of the commercial crops that generates income for farmers and ultimately helps to raise their living standards.

"The discussions at the meeting will make the study more informative and useful for policy-makers and developers," Mr Chantha said.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) Country Programme Officer, Mr Soulivanh Pattivong, said Laos is one of the ASEAN member countries that is being provided financial and technical assistance by IFAD for agricultural development to ensure food security and income generation.

IFAD, in collaboration with the Lao government, is implementing projects to increase capacity among farmers and to promote the use of new technology for agriculture productivity by switching from subsistence to commercial crop production, he said.

This cooperation and aid will help Laos strengthen its capacity to develop policies and programmes that help the smallholder farm sector adjust to changes in regional agricultural and food markets, and promote collaboration for food security and agricultural development by developing strategic programmes and measures, food safety, and quality standards, as well as encourage investment in food and agri-based industries.

Those who attended the meeting included representatives from IFAD, the International Food Policy Research Institute, Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, relevant government agencies and academia.