Lao Organic Agriculture

Like in many other developing countries, the development of Laos organic agriculture has been promoted by either rural development NGOs and by private sectors interested to gain access to premium markets. Also, the Laos government has been involved in the sector development since the early stage.

Almost all NGOs in Laos are foreign NGOs having office and development projects in the country. These foreign NGOs introduced the concept of sustainable agriculture and organic farming to Laos since late 1990s. Sustainable farming technologies and practices have been incorporated into various training activities of public agencies like the DOA and later on National Agriculture and Forestry Extension Services (NAFES) as well as NGOs own activities, reaching out thousands of farmers throughout the country. As most of the NGOs
programme at that time did not support market linkage, the products from these sustainable farms were all sold as conventional products with only few were sold as natural products or pesticide-free products with slight premium prices.

It is not until early 2000s that organic farming with market linkage became an important agenda among Lao agriculture authorities and NGOs as many international development institutions and donor agencies realized the potential opportunities of organic agriculture as poverty eradication. The collaborative project between HELVETAS and the Department of Agriculture launched a project for the Promotion of Organic Farming and Marketing in Lao PDR (PROFIL) in 2004 was the start of the organic agriculture in Lao. Lao Farmer Product (LFP), a local fair trade cooperative company, was among the pionneer from private sector who have attempted to develop organic rice and tea since mid 2000s. but only its organic tea has been certified since 2006. Below is the key milestone of Lao organic agricultural development.

2004
  • PROFIL was initiated by Helvetas (Switzerland), working in collaboration with the Lao’s Department of Agriculture (DoA)
2005
  • PROFIL contracted the Earth Net Foundation (Thailand) to assist the organic agriculture development in Lao through series of capacity building activities including setting up internal control system, organic rice farming, establishing organic certification body
  • [30 Dec] Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry approved the organic agriculture standards
2006
  • Lao Farmer Product received the first organic certification for its organic tea project
  • [Dec] PROFIL initiated organic farmer market at That Luang parking lot in Vientiane, started as once a month event but now become twice a week
2008
  • First two organic coffee groups (i.e. Sinouk Coffee and Jhai Coffee Farmer Association) were certified
  •  Lao Certification Body (LCB) was approved by DoA
  • LCB joined the Certification Alliance (an Asian-wide regional platform of organic certification bodies)
  • [till 2009]  International Trade Center (ITC) launched the project “Support to Trade promotion and Export Development in Lao PDR” focusing on supporting organic agriculture development in Lao PDR
2009
  •  LCB started offering organic inspection and certification services
  •  DoA established Standard and Accreditation Division within its department
2010
  • LCB was moved from CADC to the Standard and Accreditation Division
  • UNCTAD launched technical support activities for organic agriculture under the UN Inter Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity “Enhancing sustainable tourism, clean production and export capacity in Lao People’s Democratic Republic”

 

Lao Organic Productions

As large parts of Lao agriculture are still under subsistent production, there possibly exist “organic by default” farms in many areas around the country. Also, there are several wild products collected from forest or fallow land which are consumed by local farmers and some are sold for cash income. If better organized, these wild produces can be certified and sold as organic products.

For commercial agriculture crops, there are few organic projects in Laos that received organic certifications and some more are in the pipeline. The main organic products are coffee, rice and vegetables (the vegetables currently for local market only). There are also organically certified wild-harvest products (i.e. local herbs) in Laos as well. Based on the information collected, Lao’s organic productions has more or less triple growth in the last 3 years.

YearOrganic Land (ha)No, of FarmerWild Harvest (ha)
20081803.53795n.a.
20095243.851832n.a.
20106005.78133316786
20115989.59134216786

 

Standards & Regulations

Organic standards (covering crop productions, wild harvest, processing and handling as well as labelling) was developed by PROFIL in 2004-05. The Standards were submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and was adopted as national organic standards in December 2005. The Lao Organic Standards No. 1666/MAF (30 December 2005) is based on the IFOAM Basic Standards and the organic standards of the Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand (ACT). The English version of the standards [click]

In the following years, PROFIL initiated the formation of Lao Certification Body (LCB) with technical assistance from the Earth Net Foundation. Not until 2008 that the DOA approved LCB as organic certification body under its Clean Agriculture Development Center, a government agency under DOA responsible for the promotion and development of all safe and environmental-friendly agriculture systems.

Discussions about national organic guarantee system, including the national regulations on organic agriculture, are on-going but no decisions are yet taken.

 

Suggested further reading:

  • Report “Lao’s Organic Agriculture: 2012 Update” This report is part of the project UN Inter Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity “Enhancing sustainable tourism, clean production and export capacity in Lao People’s Democratic Republic”. The report is prepared by Vitoon Panyakul and financed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report covers Laos’ agriculture policies, the historical development of organic agriculture in Laos PDR, the extent of organic production, the market (both export and domestic), organic products available in domestic markets, organic standards & regulations, education, research, and training on organic farming. [download]