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Country Briefs

  Lao People's Democratic Republic

Reference Date: 22-April-2020

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Secondary season 2019 paddy output estimated at below‑average level

  2. Aggregate 2019 paddy output estimated at below‑average level

  3. Rice import requirements forecast to increase considerably in 2020 on reduced output

  4. Adverse weather conditions negatively impacted livelihoods and food security of affected households

Output of 2019 paddy estimated at below‑average level

Harvesting of the 2019 irrigated secondary season paddy crop started at the beginning of April and will continue in some areas until May and the production is estimated at a below‑average level. This mainly reflects a decline in both area harvested and yields as less irrigation water has been available following the damages to the irrigation infrastructure caused by recurrent floods in 2018 and 2019. The 2019 main season was concluded last December and the output is officially estimated at a below‑average level, affected by unfavourable weather conditions.

A prolonged drought from May to December in the north and severe floods in August and September in the south and parts of the centre, caused widespread crop losses, leading to a reduction in the area harvested compared with the average levels. According to a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), the 2019 aggregate paddy output is estimated at 3.4 million tonnes, about 10 percent below the five‑year average.

Harvesting of the 2019 maize crops was completed last December and the output is officially estimated at about 717 000 tonnes, more than 40 percent below the five‑year average. The decrease is attributed to a decline in the area planted, reflecting the low import demand from China (Mainland) and to low yields following the severe drought throughout 2019 in the main producing areas located in the north and damages caused by Fall Armyworm infestations.

No livestock deaths were reported as a result of the dry weather conditions and the floods. In 2019, African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks were reported throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry confirmed the first ASF outbreak in Salavan Province on 20 June 2019 and the disease rapidly spread throughout the country, killing at least 40 000 pigs, about 1 percent of the total national herd. By November 2019, ASF outbreaks were controlled and no new cases were reported.

Rice import requirements for 2020 marketing year (January/December) forecast at high level

Rice import requirements in the 2020 marketing year (January/December) are forecast at a well above‑average level of 260 000 tonnes and are expected to be fully covered by commercial imports.

During the 2019/20 marketing year (July/June), maize exports are forecast at 114 000 tonnes, about half the level of the previous year and considerably below the five‑year average. This is the result of low exportable availabilities after the reduced output in 2019 and the low demand from China (Mainland).

Adverse weather conditions negatively impacted livelihoods and food security of affected households

Drought and flooding in 2019 had a negative impact on the livelihoods and food security of most households in the affected areas. According to the CFSAM, as of March, approximately 67 800 people were estimated to face food insecurity. The worst food insecurity conditions were reported among the poor households that are mainly dependent on upland rice cultivation.

COVID-19 and measures adopted by the Government

Overall, the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID‑19, as of mid‑April, is minimal. As a measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao has ordered a countrywide lockdown starting from 1 April until 3 May 2020 and imposed restrictions on international and national travels, limiting travel to other provinces, suspending domestic passenger transport services and closing border checkpoints. In addition, the Government prohibited the large gatherings of people and closed schools, universities, public institutions and sports venues. Transportation of goods and agricultural activities are authorized to continue in order to ensure adequate market availabilities. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry established a Task Force to work with concerning agencies and support agricultural production.

There are concerns related to the effects of the virus on food prices as a result of panic‑buying, hoarding and potential disruptions to the movement of food supplies. On 30 March 2020, the Government has imposed price control measures in order to avoid price spikes for several essential goods, including medicines, medical devices and rice, the country’s main staple.

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