Vientiane Times, 15 Oct 2014
Irrigation sectors across the country have proposed that the government consider the enlargement of the budget for repairing, rehabilitating and maintaining irrigation systems as the current funding levels are insufficient.
“We need about 300 billion kip but we’re receiving about 37 billion kip per year,” an official from the Irrigation Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Vanxay Sayasouk told *Vientiane Times* after a meeting in Vientiane on Tuesday.
As the funding is limited, irrigation systems across the country are not able to supply enough water for farmers to grow their crops. More than one hundred hectares of dry season rice was lost due to there being not enough water for farmers.
The reason was because the irrigation systems were broken after natural disasters, with some destroyed by flash flooding after torrential downpours in various parts of the country.
The state of affairs of the irrigation system nowadays is that around 70 percent of them are functional but around 30 percent have fallen into disrepair and are operating below capacity or not at all.
Some of the old systems have been working for over 20 years to draw water to rice fields but unfortunately the budget to maintain, repair and improve them is still small.
Officials at the two day annual nationwide meeting on irrigation in Vientiane also submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry that it should increase funding to line soil irrigation channels with concrete.
The government has to invest more in this regard because the dirt channels do not use water very efficiently. Currently about 80 percent of the irrigation channels throughout the country are soil only. Only 20 percent are built with concrete. This year, scores of irrigation systems in 16 provinces have broken and some have disappeared after flash flooding as Laos has been impacted by major floods from the end of June into September.
The ministry hopes to increase rice production from 3.8 million tonnes to 4 million tonnes this year. This figure includes dry season and upland rice production.This wet season the government has set a yield target of 3.2 tonnes of rice per hectare but natural disasters have reduced the chance of farmers achieving this goal.
During last year’s wet season, the ministry encouraged farmers throughout the country to plant around 720,000 hectares of rice in order to achieve 2.9 tonnes per hectare of produce.
However, flooding damaged 45,500 hectares and destroyed thousands of tonnes of rice. Despite the government working hard on the development of rice production, each year a large amount of rice produced in the country is lost due to droughts and floods.
Since 2000, Lao farmers have been able to produce enough rice to meet domestic demand, moving the focus of the staple food production to export.
Laos is currently one of the largest rice growers in the Asean region, with rice exports to Vietnam, Thailand, China and further afield averaging 200,000-300,000 tonnes per year.