Coffee leads the way as Laos’ top commercial export crop, followed by the increasingly popular sweet corn.
Last year, the country received US$150 million from coffee exports, US$33 million from sweet corn, US$11 million from job-tear, US$14 million from rice and cassava and US$6 million from sugarcane, according to the Agriculture Department.
The volume from the coffee crops is continuing to grow each year, especially in the warmer southern provinces of Champassak, Saravan and Xekong, with each grower averaging a harvest of about 40,000 hectares each year.
This year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry expect that 46,000 tonnes will be sold both to domestic and overseas markets.
Coffee is in high demand in the overseas market and the Ministry expects an annual output of over 55,000 tonnes by 2015. Most of the sweet corn farmers are in the northern provinces of Xayaboury, Oudomxay, Xieng Khuang, Luang Prabang and Bokeo, the department Director General, Dr Monthathip Chanphengxay, reported.
The department expects farmers will each grow 160,000 hectares of sweet corn this wet season, and next year’s output total is expected to reach one million tonnes, she said.
Ms Monthathip believes the country will receive greater income this year compared to last, because the number of farmers growing the crop has increased.
Some rice farmers have shifted to sweet corn because it can be more profitable.
A number of companies have established dryer facilities to guarantee the production quality is fit for sale and export.
Many families farming in the northern provinces have made money by planting sweet corn and selling it direct to companies.
Lao sweet corn traders are delighted their crop price is higher than last year, because of increased demand from neighbouring markets.
At the beginning of last year, sweet corn sold to Thailand was fetching 1,200-1,300 kip (5-6 baht) per kg. This year the price has risen to about 7.40 baht (almost 2,000 kip), according to a report from the industry and commerce sector.
Last year, over 300,000 tonnes from Xayaboury province were exported to Thailand, while some was sold to Chinese and Vietnamese traders and in the domestic market, mainly in Vientiane.