Laos prime minister concerned over banana plantations

Laos' Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith delivers a speech in Hanoi, Vietnam 26 October 2016. REUTERS/Luong Thai Linh/Pool

(Reuters) - The prime minister of Laos has voiced concern over widespread chemical usage on banana plantations after a Reuters report on Chinese-run farms in the Southeast Asian country.

Reuters reported that while the banana boom had brought economic benefits to the impoverished region, there was also strong concern at the use of chemicals - including the herbicide paraquat, which is banned in Laos.

The government had already been taking action to tackle the problem, Thongloun Sisoulith said in a Facebook posting alongside the Reuters pictures of the plantations.

“The government could not overlook this,” Thongloun said.

“Since last year, I have ordered a prohibition on renting out more agricultural land for banana plantations to investors because of the damage from chemical contamination.”

He said the use of chemicals had made farmers sick and contaminated water sources.

Thongloun did not say whether Laos would take action against the existing banana plantations.

China is the biggest foreign investor in Laos, a landlocked country of 6.5 million people, with more than 760 projects valued at about $6.7 billion, according to Chinese state-run media.

Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez