Vegetable industry in Laos facing several challenges

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) -- The vegetable sector in Laos is facing several challenges and the expertise and experiences of stakeholders, public and private sectors and development partners is required to improve productivity and profitability.

A regional vegetable forum, with the theme “Supporting the adoption of interventions by smallholders for sustainable year-round production of safe fresh vegetable”, was hosted by Laos in Vientiane yesterday.

The event provided an opportunity to stakeholders, public and private sector professionals, researchers, development partners and farmers to share their understanding of social, economic, technical and political issues that can inhibit production, map challenges facing vegetable chain actors, and identity critical barriers to adoption in a collegial and open manner.

It also helped in the sharing of knowledge, experiences and ideas between the government, NGOs and commercial sector to better foster the adoption of appropriate practices and technologies.

“Vegetable production is an important activity for Lao farmers and a source of food and income. Besides, vegetable can improve household nutrition and increase incomes for farmers and traders, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry,” Dr Phuangparisak Pravongviengkham, said at the forum.

The vegetable sector provides an alternative source of income for women and can help improve household food security, he added.

In Laos, vegetables are grown mostly in permanent home gardens, on riverbank gardens during the dry season, on irrigation fields and in mixed cropping systems with upland rice.

The total vegetable production area has increased year by year, but there are several challenges being faced by vegetable industries in Laos, said Dr Phuangparisak.

They include limited vegetable production in the rainy season, many types of vegetable that have to be imported from neighbouring countries, limited technical capacity, difficulties in meeting market demand during some periods of the year, high post-harvest losses, and low quality and safety of vegetable products because of limited knowledge of post-harvest and processing technologies by producers, traders and researchers.

Lao farmers are generally classified into smallholders and have poor access to information on domestic and foreign markets. The high cost of inputs for cultivation, such as increased labour costs, contribute to higher prices for vegetables, which leads to low competition with neighbouring countries.

Research for development in the vegetable sector, encompassing collaborations between government agencies, development projects (NGOs) and private sector partners, continues to develop innovative production and supply chain systems and solutions that need to become established within the sector to enable the vegetable industry to meet consumers demand round the year.

Producers also need to implement quality assurance and appropriate certifications to support market competitiveness and safety standards.

The forum was co-chaired by the Acting Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy to Laos, Mr Dominique Vigie.