Laos is an independent republic in South East Asia, landlocked and bounded by Thailand and Burma on the west, by Vietnam on the East, China to the North and Cambodia to the South. It covers an area of about 237,000 km2 with a population of 4.14 million (1990).
In the period 1975-1986 Laos implemented a command economy based on centralised planning. During this period large scale State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were established, to be of which focussed on livestock production. Most were ineffective due to inappropriate technology and lack of consideration of market needs and wants.
In 1986 Laos adopted the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) which is essentially a change to a market driven economy. The private sector became involved in a wide range of economic activities.
Laos is essentially a subsistence agricultural economy with quite rich natural resource endowments. Livestock plays an important role in the economy.
Almost all the cattle and buffalo population is owned by smallholders. The animals are grazed under traditional methods. The quality of beef produced under this method is low and it is suited only to subsistence needs. There are a few cases where the animals are raised by lot feeding. Under this method, high quality beef is produced, but output is very low.
Laos is the only Asian country which has relatively good potential for developing a beef industry. It still has extensive areas of agricultural and pastoral lands not yet developed to any extent. It has a very low population density (17/km2) compared with Vietnam (210/km2) and is adjacent to large potential markets in China (1.1 billion), Vietnam (70 million), Thailand (60 million).
This research report is intended as a brief for Lao beef industry opportunities and for Australian tropical beef cattle industry leaders interested in capitalising on a rare opportunity to establish a commercial beef production and marketing base in Laos to supply lucrative markets in Asia. This market entry can be achieved in one of three ways: export contracts, joint-ventures, and wholly foreign-owned enterprises. The report explores a possible approach for developing the Lao beef industry by applying the Thai smallholder investment approach, where a number of small farmers are organised into production (processing/marketing) cooperatives and are provided appropriate technology and guaranteed market, ( i.e CP approach ).