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Laos to increase exports in agricultural products through food safety, plant health

In the Lao PDR, fruits, vegetables and plant products have significant export potential to the European Union (EU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China.

The EU in particular, accounted for €63 million worth of agricultural exports from the Lao PDR in 2019, representing 22.1% of total trade. Not only do these exports contribute to the country’s economic growth, but they also foster domestic employment in one of the key sectors in the country.

The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) analysis indicates that speciality agriculture from Lao PDR has significant export potential, up to US$634 million. However, agriculture and food-related products are among the most regulated sectors in international trade. Consumers in importing countries expect products that are safe for human health, and at the same time, safe for animals, plants, and the environment.

To ensure food safety and meet the regulatory framework for the control of plant health and pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, the International Trade Centre’s Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project improves food safety and plant health through better governance in the Lao PDR.

The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade project provides the necessary skills for participating companies to improve their market-access opportunities. It will also help build business links between farmers and exporters and increase interest from international buyers. Ultimately, the project will enhance the exporter’s opportunities in accessing regional and European markets.

The project was jointly established in 2020 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the International Trade Centre (ITC) and funded by the European Union.

A technical working group, organized by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and ITC, gathered between Jan 26-27 in Luang Namtha Province to review the implementation of SYMST project activities in 2021 and discuss this year’s action plan.

“Since the start of SYMST in 2020, the project has significantly contributed to strengthening capacity of the government and the private sector – to identify and address challenges in complying with regulatory measures on plant health and pesticides control for fruits and vegetables, particularly basil and watermelon,” said Chantha Thipphavongphanh, Director General, DOA (MAF).

“Given the remaining implementing period of SYMST project, we would like to closely monitor the progress of the project. Therefore, I propose the project team to arrange a monthly meeting involving the EU, to ensure that by the end of the project, we can successfully export or increase the targeted products to regional and EU markets as we initially agreed,” said Souphaphone Thavonsouk, Delegation of the European Union to Lao PDR.

“ITC has a long history of collaboration with the Lao PDR, and in addition to SYMST we are also involved in the implementation of the Lao PDR ARISE Plus Project with an important quality component in support of the coffee and process wood in particular, and to a lesser extent, agri-food. We are actively building synergies between the two projects,” said Margareta von Kirchbach, SYMST Project Manager, ITC.

Source: Lao News Agency