Tag Archives: banana

Cabinet Strengthens Gov Agencies Leeway To Act on Land Concessions

Lao Government Revokes Land Concessions

Land Concessions, giving development and usage rights to various individuals and corporate domestic and international investors, has long been considered one of the critical levers to leverage local and foreign investment, economic activity and job creation in Laos.

A form of long term rental, the usage rights to state land have been ceded to investors for projects from shopping malls to banana farms.

As with all investments, the results have been mixed. Amid the successes, it is now those cases of incomplete and inactive investments, environmental pollution and failed developments that have long proved a recurring issue, leading to disquiet for those affected and headaches for Laos’ policymakers, legislators and regulating authorities as Laotian Times has previously reported.

The lack of progress on a total of 81,879 hectares held under some 201 land concession projects has spurred a new round of government efforts to resolve the discrepancies under the country’s laws and respective contract conditions.

Prompting the cabinet to act were the findings of a report indicating that some 240 state land concession projects had been causing environmental damage, the nation’s press representatives were informed on February 20, 2019.

Based on such revelations, country’s cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun has instructed the country’s state agencies to revoke the land concession licenses held by investors who fail to proceed with developments in accordance with their agreements.

The meeting also approved measures to encourage investors to develop the land for which they had received concessions.

Measures approved include the authorization for state agencies to cancel concessions or fine those companies that fail to utilize state property in ways they were required to under the agreements they signed, government spokesperson Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher told the press conference held at the conclusion of the monthly cabinet meeting held on Wednesday.

Other key topics discussed include measures to improve the business climate, tax collection, rural area development and urban planning for the future needs of the capital towards 2030 and beyond.

The latest moves by the government to regulate and in cases revoke rights for failure to abide by agreements in state land concession projects comes after National Assembly members debated the issue in December.

Foremost among several cases of complaints from local communities aired at the National Assembly regarded pollution caused as a result of the activities at banana plantations in several provinces.

It saw the NA resolve that the government agencies actively push such concession holders to ensure their investments and activities abide by contract conditions for the use of state land while complying with related laws and policies.

The cabinet directed state agencies and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to improve assessment of all land in question following the laws and guidelines before granting investors the right to a concession.

This could also better permit the Ministry of Finance to collect revenue in the form of land concession fees from project developers, Dr Chaleun said.

Land concession projects could only be approved in accordance with national and provincial land development master plans approved by the relevant authorities, investors and agencies were reminded.

Relevant state agencies were also instructed to work together to ensure that forests and other wildlife habitat areas were protected from damage by investment projects.

Banana Farms Ordered to Stop

Oudomxay province: — Chinese farms in Laos’ provinces have been suspended due to their ongoing use of hazardous chemicals which are having negative impacts on people’s health and the environment.

The Prime Minister’s Office’s ordered the farms which are preparing to cultivate banana trees to cease their efforts while thousands of hectares of banana plantations which have already planted the trees will not be allowed to plant any more suckers after harvesting their crops.

Director of the Oudomxay provincial Planting and Investment Department, Mr Onkeo Ounralom, told the press on Friday that banana farms in the country’s provinces have been found to be using hazardous chemicals after checks by state and international agencies.

Mr Onkeo said it’s regrettable that the reports did not mention which provinces in the country used the chemicals, only stating that banana plantations in the north of the country were at fault.

“We will halt the banana plantations but we don’t want to lose these Chinese investors from the country; in Oudomxay we will plant other clean crops instead,” he said.

The northern provinces of Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Phongsaly mainly grow bananas for export to China.

Mr Onkeo added that there are about 6,000 hactares of banana trees from 23 companies in Oudomxay.

It’s not only northern Laos which has Chinese banana farms, but also hundred of hectares in Vientiane province and the capital.

An official from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Mr Phoukham Louangsouphon, said that the Prime Minister’s Office has ordered a halt to all commercial banana plantations.

Oudomxay and Luang Namtha provinces are the major centres for banana plantations in the country, he said.

According to a National Assembly report in October, some provinces were using too many insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but said this matter did not feature in reports submitted to the Assembly.

Some people became ill and some had allegedly died after spraying pesticides on farms, but the reports did not say where this had occurred.

There have been no bananas from Chinese farms in the provinces for sale in local markets as the farms send all their fruit straight to China. These bananas are packed in cardboard boxes for immediate export to China after they are harvested.


Source: Vientiane Times

Oversight of Banana Farms Weak: National Assembly

While the expansion of banana farms from the north to other parts of the country continues, their management by the state is lax.

National Assembly (NA) members at the ongoing debate session shared this view with the NA’s Standing Committee regarding the impact of banana farms on the environment and local populations due to the use of hazardous chemicals.

The northern provinces of Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Phongsaly mainly grow bananas for export to China, with most investors in these operations being Chinese.

NA member for Attapeu province, Mr. Maniso Xamounty, suggested there were now hundreds of hectares of bananas growing in Vientiane province and the capital.

In Oudomxay province, where he was assigned to work by the NA recently, he noted that many people had been taken advantage of by sweet smelling’ banana plantation investors, he said.

Investors sometimes did not pay land concession fees to owners on time and labourers were also employed under poor conditions.

Furthermore, investors didn’t always pay taxes to the government because they contracted directly with local people without permits from the relevant authorities.

There are 23 companies growing bananas in Oudomxay, but three have been suspended.

Of the remaining 20, 10 companies have registered their investment in line with the regulations while the other 10 companies have not registered even though they are already operational. The authorities have yet to advise them on the regulations and ensure they carry out their business legally.

Mr. Maniso told the Standing Committee he hoped the government would enforce the regulations as these were clearly explained in Article 17 of the Law on Investment.

He also suggested that the NA reexamine projects that are thought to be causing harm to the environment and local populations, in line with Article 76.

NA member for Luang Namtha province, Mr. Kongphet Keobuapha, commented that some provinces were using too many insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but said this matter did not feature in reports submitted to the Assembly.

He added that some people became ill and some had allegedly died after spraying pesticide on farms, but did not say where this had occurred.

According to Vientiane officials, in September a group of five men and women working on a banana farm in Pakngum district were taken to hospital after feeling intoxicated, nauseous and developing headaches, because of the misuse of pesticides.


Source: Vientiane Times