US helps Laos expand agriculture networks

LAO PDR (Vientiane Times) - The United States has agreed to expand support for Laos through the Creating Linkages for Expanded Agriculture Network (CLEAN) project, which is helping improve the quality of farmers’ products and expand exports.

Winrock International on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Agriculture to carry out the CLEAN project in Laos. The MOU was signed by the Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Mr Vilaysouk Khennavong, and Chief of Party, CLEAN project, Mr Alexandre Dahan. The signing was witnessed by Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Lien Thikeo, and the US Ambassador to Laos, Ms Rena Bitter.

Mr Alexandre Dahan and Mr Vilaysouk Khennavong sign the Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday

The project is funded with more than US$9 million from the United States government through the US Department of Agriculture and implemented by Winrock International. CLEAN’s activities are being implemented from 2018- 2021 in targeted districts in the capital as well as the provinces of Vientiane, Champassak, Xekong, and Saravan. Under the agreement, the project will continue to focus on encouraging the improved cultivation of commercial crops such as oranges, cassava, cabbage, coffee, bananas, peanuts, and pepper with seven main activities to boost access to both domestic and international markets.

The project will use a market-driven approach to develop market linkages and increase demand for Lao clean agriculture in domestic, regional and global markets by improving quality compliance and certification systems. These efforts will increase production and reduce post-harvest losses.

Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony, Dr Lien said the CLEAN project was playing an essential role in helping Lao farmers to expand their agricultural production networks with an eye for exports. In 2018, the most exported commercial crop was bananas at US$209 million, accounting for 30 percent of all agricultural exports, followed by US$70 million in coffee exports and US$24 million worth of dried cassava.

The main export markets are China, Thailand, Vietnam, and the European Union. Dr Lien said the MOU would continue to strengthen the work between provincial agriculture and forestry authorities and Winrock to achieve further farming development. Mr Dahan said there is a large and increasing demand for quality agricultural produce from international markets, and Laos’ agricultural products still have export opportunities if they can meet those market requirements.

The agreement represented the joint commitment to support Lao farmers and ensure they benefited across a number of value chains, increasing quality, income, and further competitive advantage, he added.