Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has called on the agriculture and forestry sector to act in the interests of the country by providing green and clean food to the nation and the global market.
The prime minister made the call yesterday when addressing the sector’s annual meeting.
The sizeable rice harvest this year was attributed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s enhanced food security programme, with 4.2 million tonnes of rice being produced.
Meanwhile, livestock and fish farms are now able to provide an average of 55 kg of meat and fish to every citizen each year.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Lien Thikeo said the use of machinery and new techniques in rice cultivation had seen harvests triple in size, and farmers were earning 3.6 million kip a tonne for the crop.
Mr Thongloun praised the achievements of the sector which, he said, despite the previous cold winter, the late onset of the rainy season, locust outbreaks and flooding, had seen 3.2 percent growth in productivity and now comprised 23 percent of GDP.
He stressed that the ministry should not aim solely for higher yields, as this could undermine public trust in crop quality. He said people in many countries were now cautious about high-yielding crops as they doubted whether they were grown in acceptable ways and believed they could be contaminated with chemicals.
“We should not only consider high yields, but rather be producing a small quantity that can be sold for a high price,” Mr Thongloun said.
The prime minister revealed his concerns about some traditional varieties of fruit such as the Nambak orange, which was valued for its special flavour. He said this particular species was in danger of being lost because people were mixing the seeds with those of other orange varieties.
He praised the decision by authorities in the northern provinces to stop the commercial-scale cultivation of bananas, which he said were not traditional Lao varieties and harmed the soil.
Mr Thongloun also advised agriculture officials to step up organic farming in the coming years. This would appeal to foreigners, who would like the idea of visiting a country where they knew they could breathe fresh air, swim in clean water, eat organically farmed food, and buy organically grown and clean produce.
“If we can realise this vision, it will create value and benefit Laos. We have the potential and we can compete,” Mr Thongloun said.
The development of agriculture-related industries was also called for by the prime minister, who said the ministry should provide technical assistance to agribusiness.
He pushed for agribusinesses to be grouped into an association that would encourage members to share their creative ideas and boost their market share. He noted that such an association should not force members to take a course of action as this would not be productive.
The four strategic programmes pursued by the ministry are food security, commercial agricultural production, sustainable forest development, and rural development combined with poverty reduction.
A new outcome of the food security programme over the past year was the supply of fresh meat directly from a farm and modern slaughterhouse operated under the first phase of Laos-Hungary cooperation in meat production.
The ministry will also aim for 3-4 percent growth of the sector by 2020.
With regard to forestry, the prime minister praised the ministry for carrying out Prime Min ister’s Order No. 15, which he said restored trust in the government’s plan to achieve forest cover of 70 percent by 2020.
Concerning rural development, Mr Thongloun said the ministry should not focus merely on merging small villages into larger urban units, but should also make sure that adequate amenities were provided so that residents could make a living.
Source: Vientiane Times