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New roadmap for Lao PDR to promote sustainable production and exports of wood products

The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) launched its first export roadmap for the wood processing sector, a landmark event for wood processors in the country on Monday, 29th Nov 2021 in Vientiane. The event took place both offline and online and was attended by government officials, development partners and invited guests.

The Lao PDR’s Wood Processing Sector Export Roadmap presents the workplan for Laos’ exports with value-added wood products, based on three strategic objectives: (1) Improve the sector’s sustainability through better coordination, and increase access to legal timber; (2) Stimulate product diversification and enhance skills and processing capacities, fostering technology adoption, and spurring investment and (3) Enhance the sector’s ability to create and sustain market linkages.

Laos is rich in natural and planted forest resources, offering market opportunities in the region and globally. Teak and rosewood are considered valuable in international markets. The country has a small but vibrant wood processing industry with the potential to increase jobs in the rural areas, thus generating more income and driving the country’s economy.

Nevertheless, processed wood remains a low-value-added product in Laos. The country increasingly faces regional competition, leaving the industry with only a few regional markets to access, mainly China and Vietnam.

Additionally, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is projected to decrease global consumption, setting back the supply due to factory shutdowns and logistical challenges.

To address the challenges, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry developed the new roadmap based on a series of contributions from industry leaders, small business owners, institutions and public-sector representatives.

The detailed action plan highlights the strong coordination between the public and private-sector stakeholders. The wood-processing sector steering committee will coordinate activities, monitor progress and mobilize resources to implement the roadmap.

Speaking at the launch, H.E. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Industry and Commerce said “The Lao PDR’s Wood Processing Sector Export Roadmap 2021-2025 will complement national policies and measures, aiming to promote industry and trade development. The 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2021-2025 identifies wood processing as one of the key priority sectors to be promoted to enable business to develop products with higher value-added and better quality. This reduces the export of raw materials or semi-processed products, while promoting an environmental and social sustainable industry and transforming it into a modernized industry 4.0, The roadmap offers a holistic approach – from planting forests to processing and exporting quality and value-added wood products. It is vital that the products are diversified and meet the international standards to increase domestic capacities and competitiveness – while adjusting to the ‘new normal’ in the Covid-19 era in the country and around the world through adopting new technologies and increasing the use of e- commerce”.

While H.E Thongphat Vongmany, Deputy Minister of Agricultural and Forestry said “This roadmap will help to tackle challenges and open new important markets, building on the opportunities and development potential for this sector. The EU and its member states are proud to take an active role to contribute to this objective, side-by-side with the Lao PDR’s authorities, in view of the foreseen graduation from the Least Developed Country status in the near future”

Ambassador of the European Union to Laos, H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė also added “More than a plan, the roadmap is a living document for action. Today, this launch event represents the successful completion of the design stage of the roadmap and the beginning of the implementation phase. We at ITC are proud to have been assisting in the achievement of this important milestone, which was developed under the umbrella of the EU ARISE Plus – Lao PDR project.”

“The EU and its member states are proud to take an active role to contribute to this objective, side-by-side with Lao authorities, in view of Laos’ foreseen graduation from Least Developed Country status in the near future.”

The detailed action plan highlights the strong coordination between public and private-sector stakeholders. The wood-processing sector steering committee will coordinate activities, monitor progress, and seek the necessary resources to implement the roadmap.

The International Trade Centre assisted the roadmap’s development as part of the Asean Regional Integration Support from the European Union (Arise Plus Lao PDR).

This is an EU-funded initiative focusing on promoting inclusive economic growth, climate change resilience, mitigating vulnerability and job creation in Laos.

Source: ITC, Vientiane Times