Chinese banana farms in Laos halted for using hazardous chemicals

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CHINESE farms in several provinces in Laos have been suspended because of their use of hazardous chemicals that are having negative impacts on people’s health and the environment.
The Prime Minister’s Office ordered farms preparing to cultivate banana trees to cease their efforts, while thousands of hectares of banana plantations that have already planted the trees will not be allowed to plant any more suckers after harvesting their crops.
Onkeo Ounralom, director of the Oudomxay provincial Planting and Investment Department, told the media on Friday that banana farms in a number of provinces had been found to be using hazardous chemicals after checks by state and international agencies.
Onkeo said it was regrettable that the reports did not mention which provinces used the chemicals, only stating that banana plantations in the north of the country were at fault.
“We will halt the banana plantations but at the same time we don’t want to lose these Chinese investors from the country; in Oudomxay we will plant other clean crops instead,” he said.
The northern provinces of Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Phongsaly mainly grow bananas for export to China.
Onkeo said there are about 6,000 hectares of banana trees from 23 companies in Oudomxay.
It is not only northern Laos that has Chinese banana farms, but there are also hundred of hectares of them in Vientiane province and the capital itself.
An official from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Phoukham Louangsouphon, said the Prime Minister’s Office had ordered a halt to all commercial banana plantations.
Oudomxay and Luang Namtha provinces are the major centres for banana plantations in the country, he said.
According to a National Assembly report in October, some provinces were using too many insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but this matter did not feature in reports submitted to the assembly.
Some people became ill and some had allegedly died after the spraying of pesticides on farms, but the reports did not say where this had occurred.
There have been no bananas from Chinese farms in the provinces for sale in local markets as the farms send all their fruit straight to China. These bananas are packed in cardboard boxes for immediate export to China after they are harvested.
Photo by Guillaume Payen