Investing in safer trade of fruits and vegetables from Lao PDR
Lao organic rice gains attention from international buyers in Asia's largest food and beverage trade fair thanks to ITC quality management
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), fruits, vegetables and agricultural products have significant export potential and play a major role in the country’s economy. Although Lao PDR is gearing towards exiting from a Least Developed Country status, the country's most significant challenges remain. It includes the fragile small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the low purchasing power of consumers, and the lack of advanced technologies in all industries.
In May 2022, the International Trade Centre (ITC) supported five companies in the agricultural sector to participate in the region’s largest food and beverage trade fair, THAIFEX-Anuga Asia. The support came through ITC’s Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project, funded by the European Union.
Champahom is one of these companies. Bounhieng Phommyxay, owner of Champahom, was born into a farming family who shares the love and passion for farming. In 2016, Bounhieng established Champahome Trading Import-Export Sole Co., Ltd.
Through its continuous improvement of the commodity’s quality, Champahom was the first Lao company to export rice to the European Union (EU). Belgium was the first country to purchase 50 tonnes of rice in 2021. In June of this year, the company shipped another 200 tonnes.
Despite the company’s success, there are inevitable challenges. Bounhieng says, "We are facing difficulties maintaining the quality of the rice after the harvest. We lack resources to increase our rice purchase from farmers, as well as equipment to process the rice and improve our production procedures to meet the market demand."
To address these challenges, ITC under its SYMST project, continues to support and provide guidance to Champahom and other companies on EU food safety and market-based quality requirements.
During the five-day long Thaifex Fair, Bounhieng represented the company’s products. “Lao organic rice attracted a lot of attention from international buyers," says Bounhieng.
Bounhieng had opportunities to meet with potential buyers from different countries and regions. She was inspired by many innovative ideas from other producers in the food and beverage industry. "I saw and learned many new ways in product packaging and marketing.”
“European buyers are now interested in importing hundreds of thousands of tons of rice from Lao PDR each year. Going forward, our company will continue to improve the quality of rice and work to meet Good Manufacturing Practice Standards so that we can increase our exports," Bounhieng adds.
Thaifex provides a platform for food producers, importers and exporters from around the world to showcase, explore, and develop business ideas and connect with the major food and beverage industry players. This year the fair welcomed over 50,000 people from 111 countries.
About the project
The International Trade Centre’s Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade project provides the necessary skills for participating companies to improve their market-access opportunities. It also helps build business links between farmers and exporters and increase the interest from international buyers. Ultimately, the project looks at enhancing the exporter’s opportunities in accessing regional and European markets.
The project was jointly established in 2020 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and funded by the European Union.