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Agricultural sector must focus on ways to grow productivity

Update: December, 08/2014 - 09:29

Viet Nam's agriculture sector must restructure and seek more funding, head of CIEM's Rural Development research department Luu Duc Khai told Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper.

Viet Nam's labour productivity in agriculture is very low, even compared to Laos and Cambodia. Could you talk about this?

That is a sad fact, and also a big challenge, one that will be difficult for Viet Nam to handle. About 47 per cent of the country's labour force is employed in the agriculture sector. From 2009 to date, agricultural production and product consumption have faced difficulties, causing industry growth to slow.

Between 2009 and 2013, the agriculture, forestry and aquaculture sector grew an average of 2.9 per cent per year. Agriculture itself had the lowest growth rate, at 2.5 per cent per year, compared with 5 per cent for forestry and 4 per cent for aquaculture.

This shows that agricultural growth mainly depends on intensive farming and increasing productivity.

What has been causing this problem?

There are many reasons why labour productivity in agriculture is lower than in other sectors, and lower than in other countries. The agricultural labour force is large, while sources for agricultural production, such as land, capital and technology, have been used for other economic sectors instead of farming.

Industrialisation, modernisation and urban development have been made priorities over agriculture. In addition, there have been many shortcomings in quality of agricultural labour.

According to a 2013 labour and job survey, the rate of trained workers in rural areas was 11.2 per cent, compared with 33.7 per cent in urban areas. More than 88 per cent of rural workers had no technical specialities, compared with more than 66 per cent in urban areas.

People have said that agriculture needs to use science and technology to increase labour productivity. What do you think?

I think that it is very difficult to improve labour productivity in the agriculture sector with such a small and fragmented scale of production. For example, in the northern provinces, 60 per cent of farmer households had less than 0.5 hectares of land in 2011, compared with 71 per cent of in 1994.

What are some measures you would suggest to solve the problem of agricultural productivity?

We have no choice but to shift the country's rural economic and agricultural production structure by increasing added values. For example, we need to expand industrial parks, including processing industrial zones in rural areas. We need to put more farm workers in industrial and service areas.

We need to strengthen private investment in agriculture and rural development. Investment for agriculture, forestry and aquaculture has been lowered to 5.3 per cent of total capital investment in 2013 compared with 8.5 per cent in 2003.

We need to perfect the overall agricultural production system and product processing industry. Then we need to lay a foundation for making investment plans on infrastructure development and management.

The State should create policies to encourage investment and support agricultural expansion and infrastructure development for fields with high added value such as breeding and aquaculture. If the State does that, these fields could develop and attract more productive labour to the field. — VNS

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