Cassava exports see further surge

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The export value of cassava is expected to continue to rise this year after a jump in value for the first six months (Q1 and Q2).

Laos earned over US$77.3 million in the first six months of this year - an increase of 16.7 percent compared to the almost US$66.3 million earned last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

In 2013, the export value of cassava was almost US$12.5 million and rose to over US$15.3 million in 2014, about US$31.7 in 2015, and US$81.2 million last year.

Most cassava products are exported to China, Thailand and Vietnam through private companies.

Many cassava farmers in Vientiane and in Borikhamxay and Vientiane provinces switched to other commercial crops after the tapioca factory in Pakngum district operated by the Lao-Indochina Group Public Company suffered financial difficulties and closed.

But farmers in other provinces are still growing cassava for sale to other investors and exports are rising steadily.

The area harvested in 2011 exceeded 31,000 hectares with a yield of 743,000 tonnes, which increased to over 45,000 hectares with a yield of about 1.25 million tonnes in 2013, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Cassava is a major commercial crop on the domestic and export markets, along with coffee, maize, tea, sugarcane, Job's tear and beans.

This year, the ministry will encourage farmers to grow commercial crops for domestic supply and export, with targets of 126,200 tonnes of coffee, 1.3 million tonnes of maize, 2.43 million tonnes of sugarcane, 1.55 million tonnes of cassava, and 94,300 tonnes of beans.

The ministry expects that the agriculture and forestry sector will grow by an annual average of 3.1-3.4 percent between now and 2020, and account for about 17 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The export value of cassava in the first six months of this year was higher than for other crops such as coffee, sugarcane and maize.

The export value of coffee beans reached US$74.7 million, while sugarcane earned around US$59.8 million and maize brought in US$28.6 million. These figures are all up on those recorded last year.