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Laos Can’t Meet Chinese Cattle Import Demands

Source: Radio Free Asia

China has agreed to import half a million cows this year from Laos, but the landlocked Southeast Asian nation is having trouble filling the order due to a lack of capacity to produce them and high quality standards imposed by Beijing, Lao government officials and farmers told Radio Free Asia.

In June 2021, Laos launched a campaign to export 500,000 cows per year to China – to meet rising demand for beef – and its Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry heavily promoted cattle farming and provided training for farmers and entrepreneurs, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

But before the end of July that year, Lao cattle and cattle products were banned due to an outbreak of the bovine lumpy skin disease, the Laotian Times reported.

The deal was back on in 2022, but Laos sent only 8,100 cattle to China last year. 

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China requires that cows must be of high quality, younger than 4 years, and weighing less than 350 kilograms (770 pounds). They also must be vaccinated for diseases.

Of 2,100 farms in Laos raising livestock, 143 raise cows for export to China, the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported this year.

Low capacity

For its part, the northern province of Luang Namtha can only export 3,000 cows to China this year, an official from the Department of Livestock and Cattle for the northern parts of the country told RFA’s Lao Service, asking for anonymity to speak freely.

That’s barely a tenth of the quota if it were evenly divided between Laos’ 17 provinces.

“First [the province] will send 3,000 cows based on our plan at the end of August,” the official said. “Laos may not be able to get to the 500,000 mark [this year].”

Even if the Lao government were to offer its total support, exporting half a million head of cattle is not possible, said an official from the agriculture and forestry sector in the northern province of Xieng Khouang.

“The entire country can’t send 500,000 cows to China per year even if the Lao government tries hard,” he said. “In August and September this year the government will try to raise awareness, telling villagers to raise cows and teach them how to raise them in order to get income for their families”

Import standards

China’s expectations for quality make half a million cows per year unrealistic, a cattle farm owner told RFA. Not only do they need to be young and healthy, they must all also be vaccinated.

“It’s impossible for Laos to send 500,000 cows to China,” he said. “China has so many conditions and rules to send cows to them. Sending cow meat to China is easier than sending live cows.”

If Laos really wants to export that many cows yearly, the government must find ways to teach people to raise quality cows on par with its neighbor Thailand, a Lao animal husbandry expert told RFA.

“Lao cows are of so low quality. The government must improve our cow raising ability in order for them to be send them to China,” he said. “Without an increase in quality China won’t buy cows from Laos.”