China backs Lao farmers to cut opium production

21:02, February 11, 2011      

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A Chinese company will assist farmers in Luang Namtha province of northern Laos to grow commercial crops in a bid to cut opium production, reduce the number of opium users within the province and alleviate poverty, local media reports said on Friday.

Although the Lao government declared the country opium-free in 2005, many farmers, especially in upland areas, have resumed growing poppies to produce opium for local sale, saying they were unable to earn a living from other sources, the state-run Vientiane Times quoted Sawaeng Oupaserth, Deputy Head of the provincial Inspection and Drug Control Office, as saying.

The office signed a ten-year memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company for the Laos-China Agriculture Development Cooperation Project at the end of 2010, with the aim of helping farmers produce high quality agricultural crops so they can stop growing opium poppies.

Sawaeng said that the Chinese company would provide farmers with seedlings, new farming methods and assist with marketing their produce in cooperation with local authorities to stimulate local production of cassava, sweet corn and rice, for alcoholic drinks for export to China.

Meetings to spread awareness on the project have already been held in a few districts of Luang Namtha province and will soon be expanded to other districts, with the expectation that the farmers would begin to growing the crops in the upcoming rainy reason, said Sawaeng, adding that the Chinese company has previously supported farmers in other districts in flat and upland areas.

The European Union last month also agreed to provide a grant of 1.9 million Euros (around 2.58 million U.S. dollars) for the Increasing Food Security and Promoting Licit Crop Production and Small Farmer Enterprise Development project to support people who have given up growing opium poppies in Huaphan province of northwestern Laos.

Source: Xinhua
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