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White charcoal makers plant more trees to boost exports

The White Charcoal Producers for Export Group (WPEG) is working with the government and local communities on a project to plant Cratexylum formosum (mai tiew) saplings in some of the country’s least developed regions in the hope it will help boost trade and eradicate poverty.
Mai tiew, which also goes by the botanical name Cratexylum prunifolium, is a base plant for the manufacture of white coal.  Its leaves and flowers are also used as a sour addition to some Lao soups and other dishes.
The group’s aim in establishing mai tiew plantations is to expand its white charcoal manufacturing capacities and capture the export markets of Japan and the Republic of Korea, which have expressed interest in the product as a renewable source of energy.  The company envisages producing 200 tonnes of charcoal per month for its customers.
Officials from WPEG and the Army General Staff Department of the Ministry of National Defence gathered at Ban Phao in Vientiane on Saturday for the planting of 2,000 mai tiew saplings on one hectare of land around the village.
The planting ceremony was attended by the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Lieutenant General Souvone Leuangbounmy, President of WPEG, Mr Boun Oum Phanthapanya, and senior ministry officials from Pakngum district.
The planting was a celebration of National Arbour Day and is also in line with the government’s strategy to increase forest cover across the country.
The WPEG and the Army General Staff Department started working together on the manufacture of white charcoal in 2012.
They plan to create mai tiew forests on about 30 hectares of land.   
Mr Boun Oum said that after planting is completed in Vientiane, the company hopes to employ people in Borikhamxay and Saravan provinces to establish forests there. These provinces have ideal conditions for growing the trees, he said. 
The planting of mai tiew forests would bring income to local communities working on them and could help lift some out of extreme poverty.
After planting, mai tiew takes six to seven years to mature. Once the limbs are cut off they are sent to the WPEG factory for processing.
 The same tree will produce another load of timber after another three years, at which time it will cease to be productive. 

By Sangkhomsay Bubphanouvong
(Latest Update June 11, 2019)

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