Lao PM visits China’s Guangxi to boost farm exports

Move is part of a broader goal to expand investment, tourism between the two nations.
By RFA Lao
Lao PM visits China’s Guangxi to boost farm exports Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone (L) meets with Lan Tianli, chairman of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in China, Sept. 17, 2023.
Laophattana News

Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone has pledged to increase agricultural trade and investment with southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which borders Vietnam, state media reported.

The move is part of a broader goal to expand overall trade ties, investment and tourism, which occurred during a trip last week to the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Guangxi’s capital, Lao media reports said.

Laos is struggling to shore up its flailing economy, which has been battered by soaring inflation and a steady depreciation of the kip against the U.S. dollar and other regional currencies, all of which has raised the price of food and other daily essentials.

During a meeting with Lan Tianli, the region’s chairman, Sonexay proposed the set up of a special policy for agricultural products from Laos to be sold in Chinese markets, according to lao media.

Laos’ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of Industry and Commerce told Radio Free Asia they did not have any details about the plan. 

The government is trying hard to find markets for the country's agricultural products to boost exports, and only Chinese investors seem willing to invest in Laos amid the current economic uncertainty, said a former Lao official who declined to provide his name so he could speak freely.

“Although Chinese investors see that the Lao economy is not good, some of them will still come to invest in Laos,” he said. 

In northern Laos' Xayaburi province, for example, Chinese investors have started growing rice and can produce six tons per hectare, he said.

Exporting agricultural products from Laos to China is occurring everywhere in the Southeast Asian country, although export volumes have declined due to domestic inflation, a Lao farmer told RFA.

Higher costs, climate changes

Some Lao farmers are experiencing difficulties growing some kinds of vegetables and raising livestock because they have to pay higher costs for imported seeds and other farm supplies for agricultural production, such as pesticides and fertilizer, he said.

“Ordinary farmers feel that they have been hit hard by inflation, and this directly impacts their production capacity,” the farmer said.

Farmers who grow cassava, one of the main export products to China, are facing difficulties this year due to climate changes that have prompted higher production investment but resulted in lower crop yields, said an independent agricultural, forest, and rural development researcher in Laos.

In Kaenthao district in Xayaburi province, many cassava farmers began cultivating their crops during a period of expected heavy rainfall, but the rainfall was too low, and their crops died, he said. 

Some Chinese investors contacted Lao organic produce growers and expressed an interest in buying their products, but the farmers could not accept their offer because their production volume was low and could not meet Chinese market demand, said a Lao businessperson in the organic agricultural sector.

But now there is a plan for discussion among the two sides to push organic agricultural products from Laos to be sold in Chinese markets. 

At present, agricultural production output in Laos remains low, preventing growers in many provinces from providing enough produce to local markets. 

Provinces along the Laos-Thailand border — Vientiane, Xayaburi and Savannakhet — still rely heavily on imports of agricultural products from Thailand, making it a challenge to export agricultural products from Laos to Chinese markets.

Translated by RFA Lao. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.