Champassak province has allocated US$2 million to help coffee farmers suffering amidst falling prices for the crop on the world market.
Speaking on the sidelines of an open government meeting in Vientiane on Tuesday, Governor of Champassak province Sonexay Siphandone told Vientiane Times they had provided a loan to a private company to buy the beans for 3,000 kip per kg.
The money for the loan was secured after the province collected revenue in excess of the budget allocated for expenditure on various projects.
Mr Sonexay said coffee was not only a strategic product as far as exports were concerned, but was a key income earner for local farmers and was significant in helping help them to rise above poverty.
More than 70,000 people in Pakxong district are benefiting from the crop thanks to the fertile soil and perfect climate found on the Bolaven Plateau.
“The people of Pakxong district mostly rely on coffee production for their livelihood as there’s not much land here that’s suitable for growing rice,” Mr Sonexay said, adding that coffee was part of everyday life in the district.
“Coffee exports from Champassak were worth more than US$60 million in 2012, of which more than 70 percent went directly to villagers.”
An expert in the business said coffee is mostly grown by poor people but is consumed by rich people. “In the past we’ve encouraged people to grow coffee but have not persuaded large numbers of people to drink it.”
Some 47,000 hectares in Champassak is under coffee cultivation, with much of the land owned by local people. The province can produce between 37,000 and 38,000 tonnes of coffee per year.
Coffee was introduced to Laos by the French in the 1920s when Laos was under French rule and was a successful crop until the 1930s, when cultivation stopped. Planting resumed in 1975, the year that the Lao people liberated their nation from foreign domination.
Since 1994, coffee plantations have expanded rapidly in response to market demand, attracting both Lao and overseas investors.
The amount of coffee grown in Laos is very small compared to that produced in other countries. But Laos does not aim to be a large-scale exporter and focuses instead on exporting products that are organically farmed and of high quality.
Mr Sonexay said “We won’t focus too much on expanding plantations because if we allocate too much land to the crop it will affect the environment. In some areas, more coffee trees could mean the destruction of forestry and catchment areas on the Bolaven Plateau, which feeds several rivers in southern Laos.”
Lao coffee is becoming increasingly well known and accepted around the region and the world because of its quality and organic production methods.
Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer followed by Vietnam. The global coffee crop is currently 7 million tonnes per year.
Source: Vientiane Times
April 11, 2013