In Laos, all individuals involved in trade of live cattle in Laos should be licensed. The license issued for trade is specific for the level of movement (provincial, cross-border etc.) and purpose of trade (slaughter, sale). The extent to which this licensing is implemented for other types of traders varies between provinces. In some provinces, only licensed traders can obtain a movement permit for inter-provincial transport of cattle, while other provinces will allow unlicensed traders to obtain a movement permit (Cocks et al., 2009).
According to official statistics, about 7,000 live cattle, 124,000 pigs and 424,000 poultry were imported in 2013 while official numbers of live cattle export to neighboring countries were estimated at about 7,200 head. Official figures of importing animal products through 20 international border check points in 2013 were estimated at 900 tons whereas official figures of exporting animal products were estimated at only 38 tons. There are more than 40 customary border check points in Laos of which figures of imported and exported animal products are difficult to obtain. In Vientiane, DLF (2014) estimated demand for meat products in 2013 was estimated at 18,000 tons comprising 6,000 tons of beef and 12,000 tons of pork, while livestock farms in the Capital could only supply 40% of the total demand. About 60% of the total meat demand was met by importing from other provinces and neighboring countries particularly Thailand.
Laos has also increasingly become a transit hub of trading live animal and animal products in the ASEAN region linking the west to east of the region. In 2013, it was estimated that almost 115,000 live large ruminants and about 322,000 tons of animal products from Thailand were exported to China and Vietnam using Lao roads as a transit (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Pathways of live cattle movement to Vietnam
Source: adapted from Cocks et al. (2009)
According to Phonvisay (2013), three main channels for live cattle trade were identified: (i) trade between districts within a province (mostly from remote districts to the capital district of the province); (ii) trade between provinces (mostly from the low demand provinces to Vientiane); and (iii) cross-trade border (mostly from the northern provinces to Vietnam). These channels have been affected by the trade rules and regulations imposed by the provincial and district authorities.
Export of live animals which were largely dominated by large ruminants were valued at almost 4.6 million $US. It accounted for 2.27% of the total agricultural export in 2011. Overall, the share of live animals to total agricultural export has decline dramatically from 9.67% in 2005 to 2.27% in 2011. This indicates that continuously high demand for live animal export may cause stock depletion of smallholder large ruminant herd population.
Cattle movement to Vietnam from Xieng Khouang province
Figure 4 presents the pathways of cattle movement from Xieng Khouang to Vietnam. The province is a significant production and trading area for cattle and buffalo. Official exportation of cattle from Xieng Khouang province to Vietnam is permitted but requires traders to apply for a movement permit and to use the official cross-border checkpoint into Vietnam.
However, unofficial exportation to Vietnam (without a movement permit and through unofficial cross border points) is tolerated by local authorities. In fact, most animals exported to Vietnam through the unofficial system. The animals are generally moved to Nong Het district, which borders Vietnam, and then cross through unofficial border points.
The traders in Xieng Khouang province source animals, to a greater extent (estimated 80%- 90% of exported cattle) from neighbouring provinces of Luang Prabang, Sayabuli, and Vientiane, or from southern provinces of Saravan, Savannakhet and Khammuane. About 70% of cattle exported to Vietnam through Nong Het are local breed cattle as traders are unfamiliar with Brahman and are unable to accurately estimate carcass yield from the cattle. Vientiane capital is an important transaction point in the supply chain for cattle and buffalo moving to Xieng Khouang. Cattle are purchased in the Southern provinces by collectors who then sell to traders from Xieng Khouang (Figure 3).
Figure 4: Pathways for cattle movement from Xieng Khouang province to Vietnam
Source: Adapted from Lüthi (2010)
Transit movements from Thailand to Vietnam through the southern provinces of Laos
There is an officially recognized movement of livestock from Thailand to Vietnam, which transits through the Southern provinces of Laos. Most animals being transited follow the officially recognized pathway, but the number of animals being moved is generally underreported by the companies facilitating the movement and by the officials responsible for checking the animals, checking certification and collecting the taxes.
The cattle movements were through three main border gates, including Na Phao Cha Lo gate, DensavanLao Bao gate, and Phou KheauBo Y border gate (Figure 2). See Vietnam cattle profile for further information.
Transit movements from Thailand to China through the north-western provinces of Laos
Since 2009, there have been increasing movements of cattle and buffalo traded from Asian countries to China. Thailand has become the main hub for quarantining and fattening cattle and providing legal trade documents. Cattle come from various sources including Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. One major cattle trade route is through north-western provinces of Laos, namely Bokeo and then Luang Namtha. From the field work, it was estimated that 160 head of cattle and buffalo per day or 58,000 head in 2014 were transited from Thailand to China through this route.
Indigenous cattle trade from Laos to China
Cattle and buffalo in Laos have also increasingly traded to China via Luang Namtha Province. Local traders operate this trading route, and source the animals starting from borders in Cambodia-Laos to Luang Namtha Province and then informally to China. The traders also sourced the animals from other northern provinces such as Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and Huapanh to sell through this route. These traders had the official document process for animal movement which indicated the final destination to Luang Namtha Province. It is expected that the animals would be informally transported to China. The quantity of trading these animals was seasonally fluctuated and remained unknown, but roughly estimated to be 20% of the total large ruminants traded.
Importation of cattle from Thailand into Pakse, Champasak Province
The license, or quota, for importation from Thailand only permits import of cattle and buffalo for consumption within Champasak province. However, the traders operating in this movement hope to gain future permission to expand their trade to supply Vietnam. A quota of 10,000 head (not limited in duration) was provided to a single company which then distributed this quota and provides administrative services to livestock traders. There are four livestock traders, all of which are related, operating in this movement.
The traders from Pakse go to Thailand to source animals and are accompanied by traders from Saravan province who had experience in purchasing cattle in Thailand and assisted with the negotiation and transaction. The animals are selected at livestock markets in Ubon Ratchatani province and a price is negotiated, including purchase price of cattle; transportation to the Lao side of the border; taxes; fees and necessary certification. After passing quarantine for 3-4 days on the Thai side of the border, the animals are delivered to the Laos by the Thai intermediaries, at which point the actual transaction occurs.
Transboundary trade of live large ruminant animals in the Indo-China region may cause a wide spread of transboundary disease particularly Food and Mouth Disease. As Laos has increasingly become a transit hub of this transboundary trade, an epidemic of transboundary diseases could post a great threat to smallholder cattle population. For example, Elisabeth (2010) found that Ethiopian’s livestock exports suffered from repeated trade bans due to importing countries’ concerns over trans-boundary diseases. On the other hand, export of meat processing remained small in volume, due to inefficiencies markets, poor animal handling and inadequate facilities, low meat quality and stiff competition.