Laos: Exports, imports of rice hit same value in 2017

Vientiane (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The value of rice exported and imported by Laos this year is expected to be the same at US$42.8 million on each side of the balance sheet.

Even though Laos produces rice for domestic consumption and for export, there is still a shortage of rice on the local market.

Exports for the whole of 2017 are expected to earn US$42.8 million, up 0.5 percent on last year, while the value of imports is anticipated to be the same after an increase of 1.2 percent over last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

In the first six months of this year, Laos earned just over US$11.2 million from rice exports, down 42 percent on the same period of last year, while the import value of US$27.9 million was down by 36 percent on last year.

Laos earned about US$1.66 million from rice exported to China, while exports to Vietnam were valued at US$7.6 million, and a much lesser amount was earned from sales to Thailand.

In terms of imports, Laos bought rice valued at US$27.4 million from Thailand, while US$131,100 worth of rice was imported from China and US$122,360 worth of rice was purchased from Vietnam.

The export value of rice continues to increase year by year. Over the past two years the value rose from US$23.5 million in 2015 to more than US$33.6 million in 2016.

In 2015, Laos exported rice to Cambodia worth about US$100,000 and sold US$231,000 worth of rice to Singapore in 2013 and 2014, but last year there were no sales to these countries.

Laos still buys rice from neighbouring countries for domestic market supply.

The prices of food staples in Laos are about 10-20 percent higher than in Thailand and Vietnam.

The price of sticky rice in Laos is lower than in Thailand and Vietnam but the price of white rice is higher, according to a report from the ministry.

Grade A sticky rice in Laos sells for 8,500 kip a kg, while in Thailand it sells for the equivalent of 10,580 kip and costs the equivalent of 8,870 kip in Vietnam.

Most Lao farmers still grow rice using traditional methods but many businesses are encouraging farming on a commercial basis so as to improve quality in line with internationally accepted standards.

This year the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is targeting rice exports of 400,000 tonnes, but will struggle to reach the suggested figure of one million tonnes by 2020.

Since 2000, Laos has produced about one million tonnes of surplus rice each year. Annual rice exports to Vietnam, Thailand, China and other countries average more than 300,000 tonnes a year.

Laos cannot complete with neighbouring countries in terms of quantity but has the potential to compete by producing high quality rice.