Source: Vientiane Times
The export value of rice in the first six months of this year fell by 42 percent compared to the first six months of last year.
Laos earned over US$11.2 million from rice exports from January to June this year, while last year the figure for the same period was US$19.4 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
One of the challenges facing rice producers is the need to improve production at various stages to achieve the standard required for export, including the field environment, technical systems, machines, and certification.
Producers have tried to improve the quality of their products and techniques using new technology but are still finding it hard to secure markets.
They are also struggling with high interest rates on loans, transportation, and electricity costs.
Some farmers have switched to growing other crops that earn a higher income than rice.
In some places rice fields have been acquired for development projects such as the construction of infrastructure, land concessions, and home building.
Major importers of Lao rice include Vietnam, Thailand, and China.
In 2013, the value of rice exported from Laos to Vietnam reached over US$5.8 million and increased to US$15.5 million by last year according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
In 2015, Laos exported rice to Cambodia worth around US$100,000 and exports to Singapore were worth US$231,000 by 2013 and 2014 but last year no figures were available for these countries.
Annually, Laos has approximately one million tonnes of surplus rice. Since 2000, Laos has been an Asean rice grower with annual rice exports to Vietnam, Thailand, China and other countries exceeding 300,000 tonnes per year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported.
Laos plans to produce about 5 million tonnes of rice by 2020 to ensure food security in the country.
Laos also imports rice from Thailand for trading.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this year expects to export about 400,000 tonnes of rice and hopes the figure will climb to one million tonnes by 2020.
The focus will be on black rice, kaynoi rice, and hom rice, while new improved varieties such as thadokkham, tasano, phonngam and hom are also in demand.
The ministry plans to increase yields so that white rice accounts for about 30 percent of the total rice crop, and is certified under the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) standard for export.
Many farmers and entrepreneurs are now growing rice on a commercial basis in order to improve quality in line with internationally accepted standards.
Last year, 21,000 tonnes of polished rice and about 52,000 tonnes of paddy rice were exported while about 248,000 tonnes of paddy rice was sold in border trading, with an average total of about 300,000 tonnes.