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Laos' Prime Minister admits that his country may not be able to meet the rice production target for the current fiscal year as planned because of unfavorable weathers and challenging macro-economic situations facing his government.
Lao government officials have planned and set a target to employ all available measures to encourage farmers to increase outputs from their 2009-10 rainy and dried seasons' crops at least 3.3 million tons, up 400 thousand tons from 2008-09, so that the country would have not only enough rice for domestic consumption but also a surplus of more than 800 thousand tons for export.
One of the measures that the government will employ to assist its farmers is to seek new technology to boost per acre yields. To this end, the government has recently approved a budget of 170 billion kips, approximately USD 20 million, with 40 billion kips going to support farmers in five northern provinces and the rest to support farmers in 3 southern provinces.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture's August report, farmers across Laos have completed their rice cultivation on over 644,000 hectares of land during this raining season, which is more than 1% over target. However, since the country does not have enough irrigation systems and whatever it has is able to supply water to only 20% of the farmlands, combined with the annual threats of flooding and drought, Lao officials cannot predict that their country will be able to reach the rice production target as planned.
Moreover, if the country is hit by the above mentioned natural disasters, it will inevitably send ripple effects to Laos'economy at the macro level, admitted Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh.
Currently, many parts of Laos are already facing serious floodinng, particularly the areas along the Sebangfai river located downstream of Nam Theun II hydropower dam in Yommalat, Mahaxay and Nongbok districts, as well as Xaybouly in Savannakhet province, where over 7,000 hectares of land are under water. Last year's floods inundated more than 128,000 hectares of farmland, completely destroying crops in more than 36,000 hectares as well as irrigation canals, roads and bridges. The Lao government was forced to spend over 838 billion kips or almost USD 100 million on repairs throughout the year.