Laos Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Agriculture is the most important food for most Laotians. Almost three out of four residents are employed in agriculture, which accounts for almost a fifth of GDP. Most farmers have small holdings and can only grow for their own household.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Laos. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Only about a tenth of the land area is used for agriculture. Some areas are unsuitable for both cultivation and animal husbandry, as there are still undetected mines from the Vietnam War (see Modern History).

Rice is grown on about three quarters of the cultivated area. Laos is self-sufficient on rice, which is the main staple food. The use of modern, high-yielding rice varieties has doubled the rice harvest since 1990. Other important crops are maize, sugarcane, cassava, sweet potato, watermelon, peanuts, soybeans, coffee, tea and tobacco. Coffee is the only agricultural product exported in large quantities.

The transition to a market economy that has been going on since the 1980s has meant that the market has had a greater influence on the pricing of agricultural products, and farmers have been paid better for their products. But the development of agriculture is still slow, mainly because of poorly developed infrastructure and difficulties for farmers to obtain investment loans. For Laos defense and foreign policy, please check recipesinthebox.

The lowland farmers have a higher productivity than the farmers in the highlands. In the low countries, market forces have been given more leeway, for example through border trade, and farmers have easier to sell their goods. The profits are invested in fertilizers and pesticides as well as in new technology.

In the highlands, agriculture dominates for self-catering. In some mountain regions, burning is used, usually by minority people. The government wants to limit the use of burning, as it results in smaller harvests and destroys the forest. The contradiction that exists between the minorities and the politically dominant Lao people (see Population and Languages) results in Swede farmers often opposing the government’s attempt to change their cultivation methods. Nevertheless, the number of burners has fallen sharply over the past two decades.

In the northern highlands, which is part of the so-called Golden Triangle (the border area between Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Thailand), opium poppy has long been cultivated and in the early 1990s, Laos was one of the world’s largest opium producers. In 1994, it was banned from growing opium poppy, and since 2001, with the support of the US and the EU, the government has tried to eradicate the poppy seedlings relatively successfully, among other things by forcing the farmers to switch to other crops.

But even though Laos was declared free from opium production by the UN Crime and Drugs Agency (UNODC) in 2006, it did not disappear completely and in the 2010s a certain increase has taken place instead. Some methods in the fight against drugs have also been criticized. Among other things, it has happened that mountain people with fairly brutal methods were forced to move to the lowlands, where they had difficulty adapting.

Fish is an important source of protein for the Laotians. Fishing for housing needs predominates, but fish farming also occurs.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

15.7 percent (2018)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

10.3 percent (2016)



The president is re-elected

The National Assembly elects President Choummaly Sayasone for a new five-year term.


The Prime Minister leaves the Politburo

At the ruling Communist Party Congress, the former Prime Minister, Bouasone Bouphavanh, is forced to leave the Politburo, which is the party’s executive body.


Hmong leaders die in the United States

The 81-year-old former general and hmong leader Vang Pao dies in exile in the United States (see June 2007).

Laos gets a stock exchange

In the Laotian capital of Vientiane, a small stock exchange is inaugurated. Only two companies are listed from the beginning. The stock exchange is part of Lao’s approach to a capitalist system and an attempt to attract foreign investment.

Laos Agriculture and Fishing