BANANAS are expected to be Laos’ highest revenue earner among agricultural exports this year, retaining the top spot achieved last year despite a decrease in exports by value.
This year, Laos expects to earn about US$184 million from banana exports, down US$13.8 million compared to last year, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reported.
In the first nine months of this year, Laos earned US$158.5 million from banana exports, while last year overseas banana sales stood at US$197.8 million for the same period. The bulk of the crop was sold to China and some to Thailand
Other major agricultural export earners are expected to include cassava, with sales reaching US$158 million. Raw coffee exports are forecast at US$113 million, rubber at US$77.5 million, and maize at US$60.2 million.
In 2015, rubber was the top earner but this year it is forecast to drop to fourth place due to falling prices, while some farmers have switched to other commercial crops.
The export value of bananas is expected to slide further next year after the government banned additional plantations.
Commercial production of bananas is a good strategy and has the potential to generate much-needed income in rural areas, but it can have negative impacts on farmers’ health and soil quality, according to 2016 studies by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI).
Overall, the commercialisation policy on banana production has benefited rural people.
The most notable outcome of this policy has been the influx of Chinese investors to assist Lao banana growers in the northern provinces of Bokeo, Luang Namtha, and Oudomxay.
Over the past four years, the value of banana exports increased tenfold from US$3.8 million in 2011-12 to over US$46 million in 2014-15.