Lao PDR to increase exports in agricultural products through food safety, plant health
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), fruits, vegetables and plant products have significant export potential to the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, according to International Trade Centre estimates.
The EU in particular, accounted for €63 million worth of agricultural exports from Lao PDR in 2019, representing 22.1% of total trade. Not only do these exports contribute to the country’s economic growth, but they also foster domestic employment in one of the key sectors in the country.
The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) analysis indicates that speciality agriculture from Lao PDR has significant export potential, up to $634 million. However, agriculture and food-related products are among the most regulated sectors in international trade. Consumers in importing countries expect products that are safe for human health, and at the same time, safe for animals, plants, and the environment.
To ensure food safety and meet the regulatory framework for the control of plant health and pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, the International Trade Centre’s Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project improves food safety and plant health through better governance in Lao PDR.
A technical working group, organized by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and ITC, gathered between 26 and 27 January 2022 in Laungnamtha Province to review the implementation of SYMST project activities in 2021 and discuss this year's action plan.
At the meeting, Chantha Thipphavongphanh, Director General of DOA, said: “Since its start in 2020, the ITC project has significantly contributed to strengthening the government’s and private sector’s capacity– to identify and address challenges in complying with regulatory measures on plant health and pesticides control for fruits and vegetables, particularly basil and watermelon.”
With the EU as project funder, the European Union Delegation to the Lao PDR, represented by Souphaphone Thavonsouk, added: “Given the remaining implementing period of SYMST project, we would like to closely monitor the progress of the project. Therefore, I propose the project team to arrange a monthly meeting involving the EU, to ensure that by the end of the project, we can successfully export or increase the targeted products to regional and EU markets as we initially agreed”.
ITC project manager, Margareta von Kirchbach, concluded: “ITC has a long history of collaboration with Lao PDR, and in addition to SYMST we are also involved in the implementation of the Lao PDR ARISE Plus Project with an important quality component in support of the coffee and process wood, and to a lesser extent, agri-food. We are actively building synergies between the two projects.”
Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade
The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade project provides the necessary skills for participating companies to improve their market-access opportunities. It will also help build business links between farmers and exporters and increase interest from international buyers. Ultimately, the project will enhance 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.