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Oudomxay mulls opening of organic vegetable market

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Article from Vientiane Times
Author: Times Reporters
Published: 16/09/2013
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

Oudomxay province will soon open a market dedicated to the sale of organically grown vegetables, similar to the one held twice weekly at That Luang in Vientiane. Speaking at a meeting on alternative development in Oudomxay on Thursday, an official from the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision, Mr Sithat Sisongkham, said at present organically farmed produce was sold in markets alongside vegetables on which chemicals had been used.

Because there was no way of distinguishing between the two, people were not buying organically grown vegetables. It was therefore agreed to set up a separate market for the sale of organic produce. Vientiane growers sell organically farmed vegetables at a special market at That Luang every Wednesday and Saturday morning. The market opens at 4:30 am and has usually sold out of produce by 7am.

People who eat organic vegetables like to shop at the market because they don't have to worry they are buying plants that harbor harmful chemicals and know that what they are eating is entirely natural.

Organically produced food is gaining in popularity due to its recognised health benefits. In addition, growers don't have to consider how much pesticide they should use per hectare of vegetables or add to their costs with its purchase.

While using pesticides may save farmers' money by preventing crop losses to insects, it is not good for consumers' health. Over time, the consumption of chemical residues can be very hazardous to human health.

Laos, Thailand and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are jointly running a project in Lak Sip and Nasaenkham villages in Xay district that encourages alternative forms of development and are preparing to involve more villages.

UNODC Representative Mr Leik Boonwaat said this project aimed to provide former opium poppy farmers in Oudomxay province with permanent work and decent incomes.

He suggested that if they were to grow organic vegetables as was done in Lak Sip and Nasaenkham villages, they would not resume the cultivation of opium poppies. According to farmers in Lak Sip village, each grower can earn about 2 million kip per month. This year it has been observed that provincial communities have given up opium poppy cultivation, except in Phongsaly where production has increased, Mr Leik said. In 2012 UNODC reported that the cultivation of opium poppies was on the increase since Laos declared the whole country opium-free in 2006.

However, cultivation of the crop resumed in 2007. In 1998, there were almost 27,000 hectares of opium poppies in Laos, but there were just 1,500 hectares remaining when Laos declared itself to be virtually free of the crop.

In 2008 the area under poppy cultivation was estimated at 1,600 hectares. Since then it has steadily increased to 1,900 ha in 2009, 3,000 ha in 2010, 4,100 ha in 2011, and 6,800 ha in 2012.