Asean Plus Three delegates mull shared agricultural issues

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Delegation representatives from Asean Plus Three countries are meeting in Vientiane to review the use of emergency rice reserves and discuss plans to enhance cooperation. 

The Sixth Meeting of the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve Council is taking place from March 13-14. Yesterday’s opening ceremony was attended by Laos’ Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Thongphat Vongmany.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Thongphat said the meeting would strengthen strategic cooperation to combat emergency situations in the region and fulfil the vision and goals of the food, agriculture and forestry sectors of Asean and Asean Plus Three.

“The Lao agriculture sector has recently recorded continuous growth. But, as you might know, the two greatest challenges the world faces today still remain food security and climate change. Both challenges require urgent responses. Fighting these emerging issues requires strong coordination and cooperation among us including the government agencies, institutions and local communities in our region,” he said.

“We need to keep continuing to invest in farmer communities, connect them to markets, and make sure they are able to access the needed policy and legal frameworks. We need to build more competitive agriculture and forestry sectors that will ensure greater development and progress in our region,” Mr Thongphat added.

He said Laos is exposed to high risks of natural hazards and climate change with the most frequent hazards being annual river/flash floods and drought conditions.

Locusts, which were detected in Luang Prabang province’s Phonthong district in October 2014 before spreading to other areas, are another major challenge.

The pests destroyed thousands of hectares of crops in the northern provinces and threatened food security and poverty reduction in the affected provinces. In response, the government introduced control measures to prevent and destroy locust populations in those areas.

Mr Thongphat noted the cooperation and technical support received from China, Thailand and international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in combating the locust outbreak and helping to reduce the devastation of crops. 

Last year, locusts were found in 640 sites in 376 villages across 30 districts in the provinces of Luang Prabang, Huaphan, Phongsaly, Xieng Khuang and Oudomxay, badly affecting agricultural production and smallholder farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has taken a number of steps to better address and mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change into agriculture planning and programming.

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