Lao Rice Yield Falls Short

Laos’s rice production has fallen short of government targets for the second year running due to natural disasters and a seed shortage, dealing a blow to the Southeast Asian nation’s ambition of becoming a rice exporter.
It produced 2.70 million tons of rice in 2012, 10,000 tons short of the official goal, according to official figures.
The figure marks a decline in total rice production for the second year in a row.
An agriculture official said Laos had missed the 2012 target because the country lacks seed to distribute to farmers and farmers are uninformed about the best cultivation methods.
“Laos was not able to produce enough rice to meet the target because of a lack of seed, and in particular because farmers do not understand how to use the seed correctly, which reduces the quality of the rice yield,” he told RFA’s Lao Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Floods were another factor, mostly in the low-lying areas along Mekong River,” he said.
Most of the country’s rice comes from the lowland areas, which can support cultivation during both the wet and dry seasons, while upland areas rely on irrigation.
Export plans
Laos is aiming to produce 4.2 million tons of rice by 2015 and turn itself into a rice exporter alongside its neighbors.
Population growth has triggered greater demand in recent years for the staple grain in Southeast Asian and world markets, creating the possibility for Laos to export rice within the region.
Last year, it announced plans to join neighboring Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand in establishing a rice exporting cooperative aimed at gaining leverage on the international rice market.
A report by the Asian Development Bank predicted Laos will be able to shift its status from rice importer to a minor rice exporter over the next decade if it can maintain current grain production and consumption growth rates.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned that Laos faces considerable constraints for future rice production, including limited arable land suitable for rice cultivation, a vastly underdeveloped irrigation capacity, and extreme underfunding for agricultural crop extension programs.
Paddy land
In order to raise the growth, Laos has plans to devote more land to rice cultivation, raising the current 821,000 hectares to over 1 million hectares.
A majority of Laos’s agricultural land is devoted to the crop, with an average rice production capacity of 1.76 tons per hectare.
But large swathes of rice paddy land are also being turned over to property development, sparking concern that better management of agricultural land is needed to protect the country’s food security, the Vientiane Times newspaper reported Thursday.
Although last year’s 2.7 million tons of rice produced fell short of target, it came closer to the mark than the year before.
In 2011, which saw severe floods and droughts, Laos produced 2.9 million tons of rice out of a targeted 3.64 million, according to official figures.
In 2010, it produced 3.26 million tons out of a targeted 3.3 million.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
Source: RFA News Headlines

Graft 'Spot Checks' Launched

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has announced a series of spot checks on its high-ranking officials in a bid to combat corruption, while a top official in southern Guangzhou city has vowed to declare his assets amid calls for more transparency.The checks would include verification of individual officials’ sources of income, the assets held by their family members, and their immigration status in foreign countries, Hong Kong’s Party-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper said on Thursday.The decision was taken at the second plenary meeting of the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing on Wednesday, and comes as the new Party leadership under president-in-waiting Xi Jinping seeks to send a clear signal on graft, the paper said.Veteran journalist Zan Aizong said Xi’s anti-corruption speech after he was chosen as the Party’s general secretary at the 18th Congress in November marked the launch of an anti-corruption campaign nationwide.”From the point of view of the Communist Party, it can’t get any further with reforms, so the only thing it has left to bolster its legitimacy in government is the fight against corruption,” Zan said.”This is also an urgent demand from the general public.”Powerful backingBut Zan said that anyone who was pursued for graft would likely be selected for the proposed “spot” checks because they lacked powerful enough backing higher up in the Party, not because they were a genuinely random selection.”Those without backing will definitely be sacrificed,” he said. “But those who have backing will also be worried.”Many officials were now looking to get out to a Western country where the rule of law is fairly robust, and beyond the reach of the Chinese legal system, he said.”One by one, they are getting out,” Zan said.Reports of corrupt officials have continued to surface online.Last week, netizens reacted angrily to reports that a municipal level official from the northern province of Shanxi, Zhang Yan, had managed to obtain household registration documents in Beijing and Shanxi, an option that would be impossible, though highly desirable, for ordinary Chinese seeking to move into urban areas to find work without losing their entitlement to public services.Some officials appear to be trying to maneuver to stay ahead of the game, however.Family assetsA high-ranking official in Guangzhou’s municipal political advisory body, Fan Songqing, recently offered to disclose details of his and his family’s personal assets.Fan told RFA’s Cantonese service that he felt anxious after making the pledge, however.”It’s hard to say what about; it’s a sort of nameless anxiety, a psychological pressure,” Fan said. “No-one has openly criticized me, and the other delegates have only debated it, not put pressure on me.”He called on China’s leadership to lead by example, if they wanted more officials to follow suit.”This definitely has to come from the Party center,” he said. “I think China’s leaders should take the lead, because we all claim that the Communist Party represents the people, and shouldn’t have special privileges.””That would give the people some hope.”Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jingling, who recently signed an open letter calling on more than 200 of China’s most powerful officials to declare their assets, said there was nothing stopping them from doing so right now.”The best thing they could do would be to come clean and declare theirs and their relatives’ assets publicly.”Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Source: RFA News Headlines

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