The Viet Nam Seed Trade Association Chairman, Tran Dinh Long, spoke with Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) newspaper on policies for rural development.What are the most pressing matters pertaining to agriculture, farming and rural areas?
Generally, the most pressing story in agriculture right now is developing capacity and effectiveness. The current situation we are in needs to be addressed.
The second pressing matter is the volatile consumption market. Farmers are concerned whether agricultural products can be devalued when they produce a bumper crop or whether products will fetch a decent price after a bad harvest.
Farmers carry significant risk with little return for their efforts, while agricultural middlemen can earn high profits from their dealings. In many countries, the distributor has to invest part of their profits in farmers to encourage development.
Other problems stem from the fact that policy mechanisms are not achieving their intended levels of development. Many policies have indirectly supported farmers instead of supporting them directly. For example, the rice stock programme benefited enterprises while disadvantaging farmers.
The National Target Programme on New Rural Development has set many criteria but not focused on job creation or income growth for farmers. We have also had no major developments in science and technology which is causing many difficulties in the agricultural sector.
It seems to be very difficult to have good and practical policies for farmer, agriculture and rural area?
It is not difficult to understand what farmers want. They want the Government to reorganise production and create favourable conditions for farmers selling their products for high prices. Farmers should be compensated for their produce, and that requires Government support.
Farmers also need technological support for improving agricultural production. They need direct investment policies such as credit loans for rice storage or building processing factories.
Have you got any initiatives to manage the shortcomings of the National Target Programme on New Rural Development?
Previously, co-operative development was seen as a lever for developing agricultural production. At present, for me, it would be a development of agricultural enterprises.
Previously, people were afraid of investing in agriculture due to low capital return. Now, they would return to investing in agriculture if other sectors are not profitable, and in some areas, they are setting up samples of large-scale rice farming as a form of agricultural enterprise.
I think that criteria of new rural development should be focused on policy building for agricultural enterprise development. Investment in rural schools, markets and roads was the tip of the iceberg in providing sustainable economic development.
Economic development would improve many others fields, including school, road and market building.
What is missing in the agricultural industry and rural areas?
The most important missing link is a rural institution. The rural institution was previously based on co-operative production. Later, it became a model for contract farming and the household economy when land was given back to farmers and they had the right to decide production after 1988.
Now, we still don't know what our agricultural institution was though we moved it to a market based mechanism for long time. It would be very difficult to organise agricultural production to achieve big economic results.
The result was that farmers engaged in spontaneous production, cultivating seeds they liked and raising animals they self-selected, that could not bring about economic benefits. — VNS