Permanent market planned for city’s organic farmers

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Vientiane Agriculture and Forestry Department is planning to build a permanent market for use by organic farmers, in Nonghai village, Hadxaifong district.

The market would set up a formal system to regulate supplies and prices, and provide farmers with a convenient point of sale for their produce.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Lien Thikeo told the media the ministry is handing over responsibility to the department for the construction of the market.

Dr Lien said the existence of a permanent market would reduce some of the problems faced by farmers in travelling to a variety of places, as Hadxaifong is home to a large farming community. In recent years, sales outlets for organic produce have moved between different places, which led to a drop in trade as customers lost track of the changing locations.

The new market will provide farmers with more space and a better set up overall.

It is also envisaged that the market will encourage farmers to sell their produce on a wholesale basis, and that it will become a centre for farmers’ groups.

Dr Lien said this would make it easier for the government to support farmers with funding for training on the storage of produce and forms of packaging that would increase the value of their products.

This would lead to higher quality and boost customer demand both in Laos and in other countries, he said. The better management of organic farming would ensure higher standards with regard to the quantities produced, quality, and prices.

The Vientiane organic agriculture group began selling produce at market stalls set up twice a week on the That Luang esplanade in 2006, according to the Vientiane Agriculture and Forestry Department.

The market then moved to Fa Ngum Park in Sikhottabong district where it opened twice a week, and farmers also sold their produce at Huayhong market in Chanthabouly district every Saturday morning.

The farmers’ market currently takes place at Lao-ITECC two days a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Department officials said the market encourages farmers to produce safe and chemical-free products to ensure the health of consumers.

There are now 17 organic farmers’ groups with a total of 313 household members, farming 175 hectares of land.

Six of the groups come from Hadxaifong district, six from Xaythany district, two from Xaysettha, and one each from Sikhottabong, Naxaithong and Pakngum districts. Together they grow 1,000 tonnes of produce a year.

These groups look set to continue to expand, securing new members and aiming to grow healthy vegetables on arable land around Vientiane.

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