The Lao People’s Democratic Republic Rice Policy Study, an in-depth study of the Lao PDR rice sector including the prevailing policy environment and recommendations to meet future needs, has been published at the FAO website.
The Lao government-commissioned study report, a collaboration of the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and IRRI, sought to support evidence-based policy decisions by the Lao government. This is seen as the first step in defining a comprehensive food security policy for the Lao PDR.
The report confirms that the structural transformation of the Lao rice sector started a decade ago. This transformation is led by:
a) continued GDP growth from mineral and hydropower exports;
b) increasing job opportunities in the non-agriculture sector;
c) ageing farm population and shortages in labor;
d) increasing urbanization and changes in consumption patterns;
e) stabilization of aggregate national rice consumption as result of declining population growth rate; slow diversification of diet away from rice; and
f) emergence of private-sector driven cash crops (coffee, rubber, bananas, maize, cassava) production and the gradual movement of rice growers away from rice.
The report holds that Laos has moved from rice deficit to production of sizable surplus, which are diffusely distributed in the major rice-producing regions. Rice shortages still occur, but they are more localized, hence the focus of attention should shift from attaining food security to assuring nutritional balance for the well-being of the people.
The report suggests that improved nutritional outcomes will increasingly be dependent on policies that promote higher household incomes, and education on and awareness of better uses of foodstuff.
It recommends that the Lao government support the rice sector by:
a) facilitating trade;
b) strengthening rice and food crops reserves;
c) improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public investment; and
d) strengthening the rice seed sector.
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