The private and public sectors in Laos are looking at how they can cooperate to develop organic farming, produce acceptable goods and services, and export products competitively in the international market.
Officials from the agriculture and trade promotion sectors, along with business representatives, gathered in Vientiane yesterday to discuss the development of organic farming in Laos.
The forum aimed to update participants on the national situation regarding agriculture development, strengthen the organic sector, and support the development of organic products.
This first organic agriculture forum was organised by the Trade and Product Promotion Department of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development under the UN Trade Cluster Project.
The project aims to enhance sustainable tourism, clean production, and export capacity in Laos.
Under this project, the tourist market in Luang Praban g province has been designated the main outlet for Lao products, Trade and Product Promotion Department Acting Director, Mr Somvang Ninthavong, said at the forum .
The project also aims to update the standard of service in hotels and restaurants, encourage the efficient use of natural resources wherever possible, and promote the production of agricultural goods and handicrafts for the Luang Prabang market.
“As we know, Laos is forging closer links both internationally and regionally, so we need to strengthen the business sector to ensure that we can compete,” Mr Somvang said.
“We should also seek to utilise the potential of the country, promote our products, add value, and export more products with a view to creating more jobs. This will help us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help Laos to graduate from Least Developed Country status by 2020,” he added.
“Laos may be unable to compete internationally in the agriculture sector in terms of quantity, but we have the right conditions to produce healthy products for the international market,” said Agriculture Department Director General, Dr Monthathip Chanphengsay.
“We need to join forces for organic agriculture development in Laos. Our products should meet the needs of tourism and cultural development in terms of food safety and the good health of Lao people and visitors,” she said.
Organic agriculture is beneficial for the environment by keeping the soil, air and water free of harmful chemicals.
A large part of Lao agriculture is still at the subsistence level, and there possibly exists “organic by default” farming in many areas of the country.
There are also several wild foods that are gathered from forests or fallow land which are consumed by local farmers or sold for cash income.
If better organised, these wild foods could be certified and sold as organic products.
For commercially grown crops, a few organic projects in Laos have received organic certification and more are in the pipeline. The main organic products are coffee, rice and vegetables (currently only sold locally).