Director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyễn Đỗ Anh Tuấn, talks to Vietnam News Agency about the policy on the expansion of agricultural land limit and accumulation.
The Government has decided to review all land-related policies to facilitate expansion of agricultural land limits and land accumulation for promoting large-scale agricultural production. Can you explain this move?
Since the đổi mới (renewal) process was launched, agriculture has made important contributions to the country’s development, especially towards ensuring food security, eliminating hunger, reducing poverty and providing social stability. However, the current context has changed. Now, the market requires higher quality produce and products, food hygiene and safety and processing.
All this shows that we must adopt a new way of thinking that is not based solely on the farmer’s economic fundamentals, but one that is premised on the need to diversify the economy, re-organise large-scale production and apply science and technology.
For this, the first thing is to solve the problem of land limits (the area of agricultural land for which land-use rights have been granted to individuals or households). The Government has identified this as a bottleneck that has to be cleared so that optimum advantage can be taken of the country’s resources.
What are the difficulties you see in implementing a policy that expands existing ceilings?
There are three big challenges.
Firstly, about 45 per cent of the population still lives on agriculture and 66 per cent live in rural areas. If the agricultural production scale is expanded, a number of agricultural workers will become redundant. What will they do and how should we create jobs for them?
Secondly, if the land limits are extended and the market is allowed to go free, it will be easy for a new class of landlords to emerge and control all the land resources, and farmers will have no legal standing to protect their work and assets.
Thirdly, we need a breakthrough in the way we think. We are still not thinking long-term. When we issue a law or a policy, we must look at the next 20 years, not the reality of today and what was 20 years ago.
We need proper solutions to these three challenges to ensure that the land limit policy can be implemented well.
Can you say something more about the claims that expanding the land limit could see a new class of landlords rise, and more farmers become impoverished?
This is a difficult problem in many countries, not just Việt Nam. Ensuring social equality is a challenge.
In order to avoid farmer impoverishment or prevent speculative use of farmland, I think several steps should be taken consistently.
First, farmers should have the legal support they need, especially in contractual relationships with enterprises and larger economic organisations.
Second, we need to take into account how people can accumulate their land and see who is using it effectively. Alternatively, farmers can exchange or lease the land to each other to farm on a large area and benefit from economies of scale. To do so, it is easier for them to join a co-operative and have enterprises become part of the value chain. This will secure the rights of farmers to their land.
Authorities must take steps to prevent land speculation and also the practice of people buying agricultural land and then using it for some other purpose.
However, it is also necessary to take into account the gradual withdrawal of agricultural labour, as the current agricultural land size per household in Việt Nam is too small and inefficiently used, so the income generated by agriculture is not sufficient for farming households to thrive.
So what should be solution, so that the use of land is most effective and helps create a modern and competitive agriculture sector?
In the nation’s new development period, the first thing is to give land access to the most effective user without compromising on social quality or the rights and interests of farmers.
For the immediate future, consideration should be given to revising the Land Law. The revisions must take into account the flexibility of land use in order to farm different crops as also livestock. It is important that agricultural land is not used for any other purpose, and that environmental protection and social standards are maintained.
Enterprises, in particular, should have mechanisms to stimulate the market of leasing land from farmers, so that the latter continue to own their property. — VNS