While there have been just 19 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) to date in Lao PDR, the country – as with other countries around the world – has been affected by secondary social and economic impacts as a result of measures instituted to stop the spread of the virus. This survey seeks to measure the impact of the crisis on food security and agriculture in order to identify bottlenecks and affected populations/provinces, and ultimately guide any required response.
The survey was conducted by phone from 21 – 30 April 2020. This period followed the Pi Mai (Lao New Year) holidays from 13 – 16 April 2020. Full “lockdown” measures (including restrictions on international and inter-provincial travel, as well as the closing of many businesses) were in place from 30 March 2020 until 3 May 2020. As such, we can expect that the full impact of these measures was being felt during the survey period.
A total of 1,007 completed interviews were conducted, covering all 17 provinces and Vientiane Capital. While there are limitations to this study including small sample sizes in some provinces, the study sought to capture the perceptions of local “experts” with an informed understanding of the situation.
Some key findings by sector include the following:
- Agriculture: While on average, significant reductions in agricultural activity or access to inputs were not reported, significant disparities were observed across provinces, with those in Luangnamtha perceiving significant negative impacts across issues. In terms of agricultural sub-sectors, cash crops (e.g. cardamom, rubber, tea, coffee, etc.) were by far the most impacted, followed by horticulture.
- Provinces perceived to be most impacted: Attapeu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Luangnamtha, Savannakhet and Xaixomboun
- Markets: The restrictions in movement by traders, middlemen and farmers had a visible impact on the sales of farmer produce (cash crops and horticulture) and on the availability and prices of some food products in some provinces, including Luangnamtha and Bokeo.
- Provinces perceived to be most impacted: Bokeo and Luangnamtha
- Livelihoods: Unemployment spiked in many parts of the country, with daily labourers most impacted. Overall income for farmer households also declined as a result of both reduced volume of sales and lower prices. A decline in remittances also affected a subset of households.
- Provinces perceived to be most impacted: Attapeu, Bokeo, Luangnamtha, Savannakhet and Vientiane Capital