Viet Nam News
Bồ Xuân Hiệp
CẦN THƠ — The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta region seeks to improve agricultural production and seafood processing by increasing partnerships with countries that have expertise in advanced technologies, the director of the Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Cần Thơ chapter has said.
Speaking at the fourth annual Mekong Delta Investment Conference that began yesterday in Cần Thơ, Võ Hùng Dũng said the delta region “has great demand for agricultural mechanisation and smart technologies development”.
With favourable conditions for agriculture, the delta “plays an essential role in the country’s socio-economic development,” he added.
The conference aims to promote cutting-edge technologies and improve cooperation between delta firms and foreign partners in hi-tech agricultural trade and investment.
The event, which ends on Sunday, is also showcasing agricultural technology machinery and equipment from Japanese companies.
Yuichi Nishizawa, of Tokyo-based Vox Trading Co. Ltd., which exports rice powder mills, said the conference was a platform for his company to introduce smart technologies in food processing.
Trương Quang Hoài Nam, vice chairman of Cần Thơ People’s Committee, said the Mekong Delta had an advantageous geographical position and abundant natural resources, and that the business environment had improved since 2009.
The region supplies more than 90 per cent of the nation’s rice and 50 per cent of seafood, as well as many other agro-forestry-fishery exports every year.
In the next 10 years, the region’s economy is expected to achieve a high growth rate, supported by the rapid improvement of transport and electronics as well as low labour costs and an abundant food supply.
Võ Hùng Dũng said investment prospects in the region’s food sector were relatively high, considering the many free trade agreements Việt Nam had already signed, including the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) and the Việt Nam-European Union Free Trade Agreement.
In addition, Dũng pointed out that there were many challenges facing the region, especially the agriculture sector, including climate change.
Dũng also said the use of advanced technologies in agricultural production and processing to add value was still limited.
The rate of mechanisation in agriculture remains modest and is only 65 per cent for rice harvesting.
“These factors have resulted in low productivity, value addition and competitiveness,” Dũng said.
Every year, rice farmers in the region have incurred a loss of more than VNĐ3.2 trillion (US$143.32 million) during post-harvest due to a low rate of mechanisation, according to the Mekong Delta Rice Research Institute.
Takimoto Koji, chief representative of the Japan External Trade Organisation, said the delta, with a location between Hong Kong and Singapore, had great potential to become a logistics centre in Asia.
“The region has not had enough foreign investment, but it has become more attractive to Japanese companies for its fertile land, low labour costs, improved transport infrastructure and well-developed industrial zones,” Koji told Việt Nam News.
Last year, Việt Nam and Japan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in agriculture, he said.
Under the MoU, both countries have organised survey groups and held a networking exhibition to improve cooperation in agriculture, especially high-quality farm produce.
The Mekong Delta is currently calling for investment in 50 projects in agriculture, with a projected total investment of $1.385 billion, according to VCCI Cần Thơ.
Dũng said more and more foreign investors were coming to the delta to explore business opportunities, adding that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region had increased sharply in recent years.
As of last year, FDI in the region had reached 13 per cent of the country’s total FDI, a sharp rise from 5 per cent recorded for many years, according to the agency.
FDI reached $1.67 billion in the first nine months, accounting for 10.2 per cent of the country’s total FDI.
As of last month, the region had attracted 50 agricultural projects with total registered capital of $209.64 million.
Hong Kong is the biggest investor with five projects worth $67.93 million, followed by Taiwan with nine projects worth $41.98 million, Japan with five projects worth $30.02 million, Australia with seven projects worth $19.85 million, two American projects worth $11.96 million and Israel with one project worth $5.2 million.
Nguyễn Khánh Tùng, director of the Cần Thơ Centre for Investment, Trade and Expo Promotion, said that 27 foreign delegations with 100 business executives had visited the Delta this year, most of them from Japan, South Korea, Thailand and India.
South Korean investors have expressed interest in high-tech agriculture, food and beverage processing, with some Korean companies keen to make Cần Thơ a smart city, he said.
Japanese investors are particularly interested in agriculture and tourism.
The conference was co-organised by VCCI Cần Thơ and the Mekong Delta Club of Promotion Centres for trade, investment and tourism.
The event has attracted 350 local and international delegates, including delegates from Japan, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
In a related issue, a Japan-Vietnam cultural and commercial exchange programme is being held on November 11-13 by the VCCI Cần Thơ and the Japanese General Consulate in HCM City in Cần Thơ.
The event includes a traditional Japanese music programme and an exhibition introducing Japanese culture and products as well as Vietnamese products. — VNS