Country Profiles

National Industry

Laos is a small landlocked country located at the heart of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. The population of Laos was approximately 6.8 million in 2013, which consists of multiple ethnic groups (World Bank, 2014). Over 70 percent of the population lives in rural area and largely depends on rice-based agriculture and the use of natural resources for their livelihoods (NAFRI & IPSARD, 2013).

While GDP in the country has grown at a robust 7.8% annually averaged over the period 2000-2013, the growth of agriculture has been modest, at a 3.2% annual average over this period (ADB, 2014). The contribution of the agricultural sector to the national gross domestic product has declined from 48% in 2000 to 27% in 2013 (ADB, 2014).

In export markets, Lao PDR can be classified as a “transit” country for cattle in the Mekong region. The production of livestock in the country is sufficient to meet the relatively modest demand for livestock products within the country. Buffalo and cattle from the Lao PDR are in demand, particularly in China and Viet Nam. Farmers have no difficulty selling their livestock, but traders are unable to source enough animals to supply the urban markets and find it easier to source supplies from Thailand. This poses a risk that rural smallholders will become excluded from supplying the urban meat market, where demand is highest.

The statistics2 in Table 1 provide overview of the cattle and beef industry in Laos. The country had 1.71 million cattle head (including draught and dairy cattle) in 2013. The turnoff number was 224,000 in 2012 with an average growth of 2.9% annually. The low turnoff rates indicate the un-commercialised beef cattle systems. Beef consumption per capita in Laos was estimated at 4.23kg in 2013 with an annual growth of 2.4%.

Table 1: Key facts about the industry 2000-2013

table1-laosSource: adapted from FAO (2014)

According to the Agricultural Census Office (ACO, 2012), there were almost 783,000 farm households in Laos. 297,000 farm households (or 38% of the total farm households) had cattle. Table 2 shows the number of farm households with cattle in three regions. About 27% of total farm households in the northern region had cattle whereas 50% and 32% of total farm households in the central and southern regions had cattle respectively.

Table 2 Numbers of farm households with cattle

table2-laosSource: ACO (2012)

Table 3 compares farm households with cattle between 1999 and 2011 in three regions and the whole country. Over the period, the number of farm households with cattle increased by 30%. The average number of cattle per farm household increased by 17% from 4.5 to 5.3 head which indicated the increasing trend of smallholders’ capacity to raise their cattle productivity. In the northern and central regions, the average number of cattle per farm household increased by 28% and 17% respectively from 1999 to 2011. An increasing access to input services such as veterinary services may contribute to increase cattle productivity.

Table 3 Comparison of farm households with cattle between 1999 and 2011

table3-laosSource: ACO (2012)

Table 4 presents cattle herd sizes or percentage of cattle holdings in three regions and the overall figure for the whole country. About 58% of cattle farm households (equivalent to 172,260 households) had 1-2 cattle. These cattle farm households may be classified as traditional smallholder farmers whose livelihood focus in on diversified subsistence agriculture. They tended to live in more remote locations, and cattle were often regarded as accumulating capital or asset which was sold when cash is needed. Cattle seemed to be raised in extensive grazing systems with low cattle productivity and high mortality especially of young cattle. Low labour and capital inputs were expected to be found in these smallholder production systems.

In contrast, 28% of cattle farm households (83,160 households) had 5-9 cattle. These smallholder farmers may be regarded as smallholders who started to adopt more crop-livestock diversified and market-oriented production systems. They may be located in areas with high market access with increasingly specializing in producing many cash crop and cattle products. About 11% of cattle farm households (32,670 households) had 10-19 cattle. These smallholder farmers may be also regarded as diversified and market-oriented crop-cattle producers at the later stage, and may be ready to become specialized cattle farmers if they were able to increasingly access to credits, technical assistance in farm management and technologies, and input services.

There were only 3% of cattle farm households (8,910 households) having more than 20 cattle. A high proportion of these cattle farm households were found in the central region.

Table 4 Cattle herd sizes as a percentage of cattle holdings

table4-laosSource: ACO (2012)

2 FAO data.

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