A Chinese-driven banana boom in Laos has left few locals untouched, but not everyone is smiling.
Since Chinese investors arrived in this village in Northern Laos three years ago- Locals have had something to smile about - offers of up to 720 dollars a hectare for their land. The Chinese driven banana boom in this impoverished country has been welcomed with open arms. But not everyone's happy. SOUNDBITE (English) BRENDA GOH FROM REUTERS SAYING: "It's banana harvesting season behind me and we're here to see what kind of impact the Chinese banana plantations are having on the Laos people. The local people say on one hand it's great - they're earning more than they ever did before and they're having more work than ever before. However they say that for one it's killing the fish in the reservoir close to here and it's also making their relatives sick." The reason for that: dangerous chemicals. The bananas grown by most Chinese planters here are popular with consumers- But they're not native to Laos - making them susceptible to disease. Beijing's answer - douse them in banned pesticides- Then dunk them in more chemicals to preserve them for their long journey to China. Some banana growers have become weak and thin or developed rashes. Another big problem - most pesticides come from China or Thailand- So the instructions and warnings are in a foreign language. Workers we spoke to say they're aware of the dangers, but are accepting the trade-off. They're concerned about the chemicals, but higher wages mean they can live and eat better. Last year the Laos government banned the opening of new banana plantations in response to the problem. Not only is that getting Chinese growers frustrated- but they're also rejecting claims that the workers here are falling sick.