What is LURAS?
The Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) is a partnership
between MAF and SDC, which started in Dec 2014.
Implemented by Helvetas and DTEAP, with activities in Xieng
Khouang, Houaphan, Oudomxay, Xaisomboun and Sayaboury.
Working with farmers to strengthen production, processing and
marketing of coffee, tea and KKN rice. The project also works on
reducing the risks of pesticide use, especially in maize areas.
Also Secretariat of the Sub-Sector Working Group for Farmers
and Agribusiness, cooperating with DoPLA on a policy studies.
The Market for Northern Coffee
Coffee from Xieng Khouang is attracting higher prices than the South
Cherries: 4,000 kip
Parchment: 27,300 kip
Green beans: 35,000 to 45,000 kip
Two related reasons:
Expansion of cafes in VTE and LPB is creating strong local demand
Transportation and transaction costs of sourcing beans from elsewhere are high
Cafes in the capital have been struggling to get green beans!
But the on-going expansion of the production area is the North of Laos
means this situation cannot last.
Prices for farmers are likely to drop once the local demand is met and
the ‘surplus’ has to be exported.
Can Laos compete with areas such as Yunnan, Shan State and the Lanna
area of Thailand where coffee production is also expanding?
Background of Coffee in Khoun District
LURAS is building on earlier coffee initiatives
in Khoun District of XK.
Arabica coffee was first planted with support
of IFAD in 2001 but then abandoned due to
lack of market.
In 2010, the SADU project introduced wet
processing and started making connections
with private sector.
Following the completion of SADU, farmers
stopped processing but continued to sell
cherries to local buyers.
In 2016, LURAS started applying a systems
approach to achieve greater sustainability.
Currently 714 HH in 40 villages have 393 ha
of coffee. Expected yield 46 t cherries.
SADU Report, 2012
A Systems Approach
Integrated activities are carried out that take account of the
relationships between multiple factors and actors.
promotion of CSR
Govt: support to PAFO
Vision and Strategy
consultant study and
Vision for the future
The LURAS team believes that the future profitability and
sustainability of Keoset Community Coffee depends on
empowered farmers delivering a specialty product.
“Specialty can only occur when all of those involved in the
coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain a keen focus
on standards and excellence from start to finish.” (Source, SCA)
In practice this means...
A focus on quality not just quantity. Quality must be consistently high.
Farmers moving up the value chain, eg. selling green not red
Getting premiums through certification (eg. organic) and/or
maintaining unique identity (eg. single origin)
Establishing long-term partnerships among the value chain actors
Partners 1: Farmers
Investing in the ability of farmers is the key to
success for the sector. Small producers need both
facilities and skills.
LURAS has demonstrated that the provision of
processing facilities can act as a basis for collective
action that in turn will enhance the bargaining
power of farmer groups.
LURAS has also demonstrated that farmer-to-
farmer learning is an effective means for
improving skills. Exchanges between Keoset
farmers and coffee producers from the Bolaven
have strengthened techniques and confidence.
Ownership is important. Not only of productive
assets, but also the product identity. LURAS is not
simply promoting Lao coffee but Keoset Coffee.
Partners 2: Companies
Farmers need buyers, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation,
especially when they have no choice about who they can sell to.
LURAS is promoting partnerships that reduces risks for farmers, and
secures supply for locally-based companies. A win-win situation.
And we work with companies that don’t just buy beans, but also roast
and retail in Laos, thereby creating jobs and related economic activity.
Competition is important. The project has introduced new companies
to prevent the creation of local monopsonies, and thereby ensure that
farmers have options.
Partners 3: Technical Assistance
Many projects have introduced coffee in the
North, often as an alternative for opium, but
failed to make a sustained impact because of
unrealistic and inadequate TA.
In some cases, the assistance was too narrow in
scope, eg. supporting planting but not processing or
In other cases the duration of assistance was too
short to enable farmer groups to reach the required
Some projects have also been unrealistic, failing to
adequately analyse profitability of interventions
LURAS recognizes that the introduction of
coffee needs at least 5 years of TA, and that
different experts may be needed to address a
wide range of issues: technical, organisational,
marketing, policy, communication.
Partners 4: Local Government
Like other forms of agribusiness in Laos, coffee is
vulnerable to rent-seeking behaviour by local
Collection of taxes and payments for quotas,
permits etc. can undermine the profitability for
farmers and companies alike, and stifle the
growth of the sector.
These problems appear to be less with coffee in
the North of Laos
LURAS experience shows that local government
can play a constructive role as coordinators and
Effective coordination requires data collection
and stakeholder consultations, with transparency
as a key ingredient.
Partners 5: Youth
The development of the coffee sector is a long term initiative.
Coffee is also a labour-intensive sector
We cannot succeed if all the youth migrate out of the coffee villages.
For this reason LURAS has a Youth Engagement Strategy (YES)
YES aims to strengthen the connection between agro-processing, rural
employment and youth empowerment.
We need to work with the next generation of coffee farmers!
Some key ideas to remember:
A vision of speciality coffee production in Laos
Profitability through consistent quality and premiums
Community ownership of productive assets and product identity
Encouraging partnerships and competition in the engagement
with private sector
Be realistic and open when making plans and analysing data.
A long-term perspective, including engagement with youth