The People’s Democratic Republic of Laos is a mid-sized landlocked country located in Southeast Asia. Currently, Laos has a total territory of almost 237.000 square kilometers, which is somewhat larger than the state of Utah. The country is dominated by rugged mountains alongside some plains and plateaus. Likewise, the country has a total population of little over 7 million citizens, about 39% of which live in an urban setting. Even though the capital city of Vientiane has approximately 1 million inhabitants, Laos is amongst the minority of countries in the world where most of the population lives in a rural setting. The national annual gross domestic product (GDP) is about US$40 billion (PPP) and the country has experienced positive economic growth upwards of 7.0% in recent years. The Laotian economy is divided into 25% agriculture, 33% manufacturing, and 42% services. Similarly, it is estimated that the agricultural industry employs 73% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 6% and services employ another 21%. Meanwhile, the agriculture industry utilizes 11% of the national territory, while another 68% is forested.
In terms of natural resources, Laos has timber, teak, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, and gemstones. Within manufacturing, the national industry is focused on mining, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, and cement. Likewise, an important sector of the Laotian economy is devoted to the services and tourism industries. Simultaneously, the country’s agricultural industry has as main products sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice, cassava, manioc, water buffalo, pigs, cattle, and poultry. During 2015, Laos imported US$6.5 billion worth of goods and exported US$3.8 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$2.7 billion. Furthermore, that same year, Laos’ main export, representing 14% or US$528 million of the country’s total, was electricity. On the other hand, the country’s main import, representing 12% or US$777 million of all international purchases, was refined petroleum. In terms of trade, Laos belongs to the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its main partners are Thailand, China, Vietnam, Japan, and the European Union.
Agribusiness and Land Distribution in Laos
Unfortunately, in Laos, 1.3 million people suffer from undernourishment. In recent years, the average per capita protein intake of animal origin amongst the Laotian population has been of 13 grams daily. Meanwhile, cereals, roots, and tubers supply 72% of the average food energy intake in the country. Land distribution and output in Laos have also evolved throughout the last half century. Back in 1961, permanent pastures and meadows in the country covered 900.000 hectares, while arable land covered 640.000 hectares and permanent crops accounted for 10.000 hectares. More recently, by 2014, permanent pastures and meadows had decreased to 675.000 hectares, while arable land represented little over 1.5 million hectares and permanent crops covered almost 170.000 hectares. In 1961, the cereals market in Laos utilized 630.000 hectares of land and yielded approximately 560.000 metric tons annually. Finally, in 2014, the country devoted some 1.2 million hectares of land to cereals production and yielded little over 5.4 million metric tons.