Over the next five years the agriculture and forestry sector plans to bolster agricultural productivity to ensure food security and contribute to the goal of lowering the poverty rate to less than 24 percent of the population.The focus will be on shifting agricultural production from subsistence-based to commercial cultivation for sale in local markets and for export, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Sitaheng Rasphone said at a meeting of agricultural and forestry officials in Vientiane yesterday.
The government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, will also focus on expanding access to new technology to help farmers improve crop production and achieve higher yields, he said.
The ministry aims to increase agricultural and forestry production by 3.5 to 4 percent per year over the next five years and ensure that the sector accounts for 23 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product.
To reach the goals, the ministry will implement activities covering four targets, eight plans and 13 measures, said Mr Sitaheng.
The first target is to improve people's living conditions by boosting agricultural production and livestock breeding for food security; the second is to increase commercial production through the use of new technology; the third target is to ensure permanent livelihoods to reduce poverty; and the last is to eradicate shifting cultivation practices and ensure sustainable forestry management.
All of these targets are aimed at increasing the ability of Lao farmers to combat changes in climatic conditions and ensure sufficient supply of foodstuffs for domestic markets and for export, he said.
By 2015, the ministry hopes farmers around the nation will be producing 4.15 million tonnes of rice annually, of which 70 percent will be sticky rice and 30 percent white rice, Mr Sitaheng said.
The nation should have an annual rice surplus of 400,000-500,000 tonnes, or enough for 450-500kg per person per year, and also enough meat and fish for an annual average of 66kg per capita in urban areas and 48kg per capita in rural areas.
The ministry will continue to conduct sustainable management of three different classifications of forests and ensure coverage reaches 65 percent by 2015, up from the current figure of about 52 percent.
Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad advised agriculture and forestry officials to help farmers shift from sufficiency-based production to commercial production and boost industrialisation of the sector to integrate with international markets.
“Firstly we should investigate the untapped potential of the agriculture and forestry sector and decide what the best commercial crops are,” Mr Somsavat said.
This will help promote increased agricultural production for supply to domestic markets and for export abroad, he said.
The ministry should also work to group together agricultural producers so that they can more easily boost agricultural production and guarantee the quality of their products while reducing capital expenditure.
Other important factors are ensuring sufficient supply of high quality seeds and fertilisers so that farmers can boost output and assisting farmers to shift from labour-based cultivation to machine-based farming, Mr Somsavat said. The ministry should also focus on human resources development and increasing capacity building in agricultural research, he explained.
Achievement of the targets can't be met without greater coordination between central and local authorities, especially the ministry and provincial departments as well as agricultural research institutes.
The meeting runs until Friday and is being attended by representatives from the agriculture and forestry sector and other officials from other relevant sectors around the country.
By Khamphone Syvongxay
(Latest Update January 13, 2011)