In July/August this year, excessive rainfall and the aftermath of typhoons Irwin and Louise, caused serious floods in central and southern Laos, resulting in the complete loss of 62 000 hectares of paddy. The floods also came too late to allow the replanting of rice. In addition, as parts of Bolikhamxay and Khammoaume have been affected by floods consecutively for the past 2-3 years, there are little food reserves in these areas. As the floods also seriously damaged or destroyed irrigation a nd drainage systems, required for the small area of dry season rice, little can be recouped from this crop.
The Government reacted swiftly to the flood emergency in requesting assistance from the international community. Missions from the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) and FAO/OSRO visited Laos in September to assess humanitarian needs and d amage to agricultural infrastructure respectively.
The outlook for rice, the main staple, has been severely affected by floods, and attacks by insects and rodents in certain areas. Six provinces in particular have been affected badly. Four of these,
Vientiane Municipality, Vientiane Province, Bolikhamxay and Khammouane face large shortages, with the other two traditional surplus areas, likely to have a reduced level of surplus. As little will be harvested this year, inhabitants of the six affe cted provinces will need emergency food assistance for varying periods up to 12 months, until the next harvest in October-November 1996.
The total national gap between expected rice supply and required utilization in 1996, is estimated to be 132 577 tons, with the six affected provinces accounting for about half, 69 730 tons, of the shortage. The worst affected people numbering 150 000 will need to be provided with emergency food assistance for 12 months and an additional 224 000 people for 6 months. On the basis of WFP rations of 144 kg of rice/annum per caput, this amounts to 37 728 tons of rice. However based on a normal p er caput requirement of 180 kg/annum, the required amount would be 47 160 tons. In view of the emergency and the need to provide at least the minimum requirement of food urgently, the mission recommends emergency food aid of 38 000 tons of rice. Do nor pledges, as of early October, amounted to 834 tons of rice. The balance yet to be covered, therefore, is nearly 37 200 tons.
As most of the people affected are already without supplies of rice and transportation is difficult, relief food distribution needs to be undertaken swiftly. A provision will also need to be made urgently for seed, as a result of the loss of produc
tion on some 62 000 hectares.
Rice is mainly produced under rainfed conditions in low lying areas along the Mekong River, where it is exposed to damage by inundation from river water in some years. In other years, inadequate rainfall may have an adverse effect on production. So me rice is also produced in the upland areas, on a shifting cultivation basis. Yields of this crop are directly related to the rotational pattern used, which are lower in the shorter rotational systems. Irrigated production is limited to some 3-5 p ercent of the total. Irrigation technology on the whole is of low standard due to the application of traditional methods such as brushwood diversion, etc. Only in a few areas has pump irrigation been developed.
Table 1: Forecast production by type of rice, 1995
|Rainy season |
|342 083||65.6||1 098 773||78|
|Upland rice||166 625||31.9||260 523||18.5|
|Irrigated rice||13 000||2.5||50 000||3.5|
|TOTAL||521 788||100||1 409 296||100|
Rice area and output in 1995, are likely to be well below the respective target of 627 000 hectares and around 1.72 million tons, set early in the season. This can be attributed to (i) too high a target set; (ii) loss of some 62 348 hectares due to floods; and (iii) yield estimates which are too optimistic and unattainable using present crop husbandry techniques.
The Mission estimated the output in the flood affected provinces to be between 9 and 49 percent lower than the target as a result of the flooding. Whilst the overall loss was about 20 percent, the most severe damage took place in Bolikhamxay (49 pe
rcent), Vientiane Municipality (37 percent), Khammouane (32 percent) and Vientiane Province (23 percent). The remaining two provinces only reported damage of around 10 percent.
|Total area |
|Flooded area |
|Damaged area |
(100 percent crop loss)
|Vientiane Province||33 523||12 038||7 613|
|Vientiane Municipality||42 097||18 565||15 595|
|Bolikhamxay||18 791||13 453||9 188|
|Khammouane||41 781||17 378||13 498|
|Savannakhet||93 238||11 414||8 432|
|Champassack||76 553||12 970||8 022|
|TOTAL||305 983||85 818||62 348|
|Province||Percent of total||Damage (percent)|
Government estimates of crop losses were carefully checked during field trips by the Mission. Evaluating crop condition and comparing data from the previous year, the conclusion drawn was that the effective average yield used by the Government of 3 .11 tons/ha for lowland paddy was too high. The Mission, therefore, calculated the average yield in each province over the past four years and used that to estimate lowland production to be harvested early in 1996. The production of upland rice app eared to be fairly normal. Although, diseases and pest attacks had occurred in certain areas they seemed to be containable. The production of irrigated rice was also normal. The total production of paddy expected in 1995 in the six flood affected p rovinces is 743 019 tons.
|Province||Rainfed rice||Irrigated and |
|Vientiane Province||74 103||6 933||81 036|
|Vientiane Municipality||75 001||26 600||101 601|
|Bolikhamxay||23 719||11 653||35 372|
|Khammouane||66 465||4 400||70 865|
|Savannakhet||240 001||14 959||254 960|
|Champassack||193 943||5 242||199 185|
|TOTAL||673 231||69 787||743 019|
There is a concern regarding the planting of the next irrigated crop. Due to the floods, there has been serious damage to irrigation structures and repairs and restructuring of these need to be completed in time for the next crop. An additional pro
blem caused by this year's floods will be the lack of seeds for next year's planting of lowland rice.
Rice accounts for some 75 percent of the total calorie intake of Loatians. The remaining 25 percent comes in various forms, including maize, root and tubers, vegetables, fish and meat. One underlying assumption in this exercise is that these other
food items are available to meet 25 percent of the normal calorie intake, so that the calculation of shortfall in food availability relates to rice only. This assumption should broadly hold because while the availability of these other food items m
ay also decline due to floods or droughts, people tend to intensify their efforts (e.g. catching fish, collecting forest products, catching game, growing vegetables) to improve access to other food items.
Reportedly, some unofficial cross border trade in rice from Laos takes place in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country at harvest time. Similarly, some unofficial import of rice also reportedly takes place. However, no estimate of eith
er flow is available.
Recent studies by FAO in the region, suggest that average post-harvest losses in rice production range between 13 and 15 percent of production. This assessment, therefore, uses the lower estimate of 13 percent, with an additional 3 percent allowed for seed and 2 percent for other uses.
The utilization of milled rice in 1996, calculated on the basis of the above parameters, therefore works out to be 845 000 tons for human consumption and 157 000 tons for post harvest losses, seed and other uses, giving a total of some 1 million to ns. The cereal balance sheet for Laos for 1995/96 is set out in Table 4, with surpluses/shortages by provinces shown in Table 5.
Table 4: Cereal Balance Sheet
|1. 1995 production (projected)||868 640|
|2. Stock drawdown||-|
|3. Total availability (1+2)||868 640|
|4. Food use||844 560|
|5. Post harvest losses, seed and other uses||156 657|
|6. Total utilization (4+5)||1 001 217|
|7. 1996 Import requirement||132 577|
|8. Commercial imports||15 000|
|9. Food aid requirements||117 577|
|Emergency food aid||38 000|
|Programme and project food aid||79 577|
Table 5: Rice production and surplus/deficit by province, 1996
|Province||1996 population 1/||Expected 1995 production|
|('000)||Paddy 2/||Rice (milled)|
|Phongsaly||156||42 648||26 442|
|Luang Namtha||116||36 875||22 863|
|Oudomxay||216||66 862||41 454|
|Bokeo||116||38 820||24 068|
|Luang Prabang||374||95 860||59 433|
|Houaphanh||250||59 280||36 754|
|Xayabouli||299||74 373||46 111|
|Xieng Khouang||205||51 640||32 017|
|Vientiane Municipa'lity*||546||101 601||62 993|
|Vientiane Province*||293||81 036||50 242|
|Bolikhamxay*||168||35 372||21 931|
|Khammouane*||281||70 865||43 936|
|Savannakhet*||686||254 960||158 075|
|Khetphiset||55||16 550||10 261|
|Salavane||265||130 605||80 975|
|Sekong||65||11 380||7 056|
|Champassack*||512||199 185||123 495|
|Attapeu||89||33 120||20 534|
|Total||4 692||1 401 032||868 640|
Table 5: Rice production and surplus/deficit by province, 1996 (continued)
|Province||Estimated post-harvest |
losses, seed and other uses
|Estimated 1996 |
|Paddy||Rice (milled)||Paddy||Rice (milled)|
|Phongsaly||7 677||4 760||45 290||28 080|
|Luang Namtha||6 637||4 115||33 677||20 880|
|Oudomxay||12 519||7 762||62 710||38 880|
|Bokeo||6 987||4 332||33 677||20 880|
|Luang Prabang||17 255||10 698||108 581||67 320|
|Houaphanh||10 671||6 616||72 581||45 000|
|Xayabouli||13 387||8 300||86 806||53 820|
|Xieng Khouang||9 295||5 763||59 516||36 900|
|Vientiane Municipality*||18 289||11 339||158 516||98 280|
|Vientiane Province*||14 587||9 044||85 065||52 740|
|Bolikhamxay*||6 367||3 948||48 774||30 240|
|Khammouane*||12 755||7 908||81 581||50 580|
|Savannakhet*||45 894||28 454||199 161||123 480|
|Khetphiset||2 979||1 847||15 948||9 900|
|Salavane||23 510||14 576||76 935||47 700|
|Sekong||2 048||1 270||18 871||11 700|
|Champassack*||35 853||22 229||148 645||92 160|
|Attapeu||5 961||3 696||25 839||16 020|
|Total||252 675||156 657||1 362 193||844 560|
Table 5: Rice production and surplus/deficit by province, 1996 (concluded)
|Phongsaly||-10 319||-6 398|
|Luang Namtha||-3 439||-2 132|
|Oudomxay||-8 368||-5 188|
|Bokeo||-1 845||-1 144|
|Luang Prabang||-29 976||-18 585|
|Houaphanh||-23 971||-14 862|
|Xayabouli||-25 821||-16 009|
|Xieng Khouang||-17 171||-10 646|
|Vientiane Municipality*||-75 203||-46 626|
|Vientiane Province*||-18 616||-11 542|
|Bolikhamxay*||-19 769||-12 257|
|Khammouane*||-23 471||-14 552|
|Savannakhet*||+9 905||+6 141|
|Khetphiset||-2 397||-1 486|
|Salavane||+30 160||+18 699|
|Sekong||-9 539||-5 914|
|Champassack*||+14 687||+9 106|
|Total||-213 834||-132 577|
1/ Computed by using the average population growth rate for each province from 1995 census figures where available. For other provinces, the national average growth rate of 2.4 percent has been used.
2/ Figures for the six flood-affected provinces are Mission estimates, while the figures for the other provinces are those provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lao PDR.
* Flood affect areas.
While the purchase of rice is generally not an option for most farm families, except a limited few who earn income from the activities noted above, they have various coping mechanisms. One of them is gathering and consuming wildlife and other produ
cts from forests, such as rabbits, rodents, birds, roots, tubers, bamboo shoots and other items. However, due to deforestation and an increase in the number of people resorting to this course of action, it is becoming an increasingly difficult opti
on to pursue. A second mechanism is to borrow from those within the village who may have surplus. This is regularly done and there is no interest to be paid. Sometimes rice is also borrowed from other villages, though this is subject to interest of
50 percent or more. In any event, such borrowing is only possible if a surplus exists with households in the villages. In the flood-affected areas this year, most of the households have no stocks of rice, so the option of borrowing is virtually no
nexistent. Only when no other means are available, will households sell draught animals, (such as cattle and buffalo) in desperation. This year, unless food assistance is forthcoming in time, many households expect that they may be forced to sell a
However, immediate attention has to be focused on people in flood-affected areas, who suffered complete crop loss, have no food reserves and are desperate for assistance. The net deficit in these areas is estimated to be 69 730 tons of rice.
The number of people who need emergency food aid have been calculated as follows. It is assumed that the average land holding is one hectare and the average household size is six. Based on these assumptions, the total number of people affected is 3 74 087. Of this, 150 000 will need assistance for 12 months, as they have been affected by floods this year and in previous years and have no food reserves, with the remaining 224 000 requiring assistance for 6 months as a result of losses this yea r. Using the WFP standard food aid ration of 144 kg of rice per person/annum for Laos, the total quantity required is about 38 000 tons of rice. Had the normal annual requirement of 180 kg per caput been used, the quantity of rice needed would have been 47 160 tons. However, to ensure the minimum is provided as soon as possible, the Mission recommends emergency food aid of 38 000 tons of rice. This is a conservative estimate, and assumes that those households that only suffered losses this y ear, and not last year or the year before, either have some reserves from last year or can eke out enough food from forest products to pull themselves through six months.
The Mission finds that there is also a strong case for supplying the balance of the total deficit which amounts to 79 577 tons of rice to be used largely in food-for-work programmes for rehabilitating irrigation facilities and other agricultural st
ructures extensively damaged by the floods this year and for market sales to arrest sharp increases in prices.
Naturally, in a country as diverse as Laos, capacity varies, with the best Committees able to handle almost unlimited quantities of aid without much assistance, and others requiring some training and a greater degree of supervision.
The Government is now enumerating the number of people affected by village, and estimating the length of time (e.g. 12 months or 6 months) they will lack food. The exact plan of distribution and priorities will be drawn up once that information is available.
Past experience suggests that in many provinces, NGO involvement in emergency food distribution can be useful as members of the civil service can not devote much time and attention to an emergency operations, due to other responsibilities.
In addition to rehabilitating irrigation facilities and other agricultural structures, resulting from the recent floods, there is scope and need to develop further small scale irrigation to expand irrigated rice production. Assistance for this acti vity should be rewarding for both Lao PDR and the donors by reducing the country's food vulnerability.
At present, seeds of varying quality are being used widely. Certification and ensuring the availability of quality seeds, would therefore be an important intervention to raise productivity. A lack of employment opportunities during the off-season in agriculture, remains a crucial problem, which affects the food security of rural people. Programmes aimed at generating off-farm employment through food-for-work and special training and credit schemes deserve attention. Some of these activities may also be combined with the development of agricultural infrastructure to ensure greater impact on food security.
Non-availability of reliable and up-to-date data, crucial for planning and emergency assessment, remains a major bottleneck. An FAO project "Strengthening Agricultural Statistics (TCP/LAO/4452T)" aims to improve the agricultural database in four pr ovinces on a pilot basis. Given that the Government's capacity in agricultural statistics is very limited, further assistance in this field is encouraged. Another FAO pilot project "Development of National Food Security Programme (GCPS/RAS/140/ITA( LAO))" aims to improve systems of generating food information, monitoring and forecasting. As the government is also aware of the need to develop such capacity, it is recommended that the assistance being provided be further encouraged.
This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further inform
ation if required.
|Abdur Rashid||B. Szynalski|
|Chief, ESCG, FAO||Director, OP, WFP|
|Telex 610181FAO I||Telex: 626675 WFP I|
|Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495||Fax: 0039-6-5228-2837|
|E-mail: INTERNET: GIEWS1@FAO.ORG|