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Agriculture head fields questions

Update: November, 20/2013 - 08:48
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat answers questions from NA deputies at the first Q&A session yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhan Sang
HA NOI (VNS) — Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat was in the hot seat over the sector's poor management during a three-day Q&A session between National Assembly deputies and the Government cabinet that started yesterday afternoon.

Viet Nam's agriculture sector faces many problems, such as poor planning, low productivity and competitiveness and negligence when it comes to managing input materials. Deputy Nguyen Van Quyet from southern Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province asked Phat why these problems were so pervasive and whether he had any solutions.

"Labour, land and money are key resources to boost agricultural growth, but Viet Nam has seen reductions in both farmland and labour force. Plus, the quality of labour has not changed much," Phat said.

The problems also resulted from poor management at all levels, the minister added, interjecting that now was the time to apply science and technology to agriculture production, identify and develop key products and offer incentives to attract investors to agriculture.

This year, the ministry would submit a master plan to develop agriculture high-tech zones to the Government, he said.

Deputies Tran Van Ninh from northeastern Quang Ninh province and Huynh Minh Hong from southern Bac Lieu province questioned the minister's responsibility for overseeing production and trade of animal feeds and fertiliser, as sub-standard and fake products dominated the domestic market.

The ministry had yet to issue proper criteria to control production of these products, the deputies pointed out, although they harm both human health and the environment.

Phat said that the ministry was assigned to supervise production of plant protection chemicals, animal medicine, animal feed and organic fertiliser.

However, while it issued a list of fertilisers eligible to be used in Viet Nam and instructions on their usage, the ministry did not oversee the production and trade of chemical fertilisers.

To control the fertiliser market and curb the circulation of sub-standard and fake fertilisers, it was necessary to improve the legal framework for fertiliser management, Phat said.

He added that the Law on Plant Protection and Quarantine, expected to be adopted soon, would be helpful in accomplishing this goal.

Moreover, he promised, the ministry would also aim to improve inspections, especially in border areas, to prevent sub-standard products from entering the domestic market.

He raised concern over the shortage of staff to inspect the quality of agriculture input materials and urged farmers to join hands to fight illicit producers and traders.

Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan added that under a programme to develop key national products, three were farm products – rice, mushrooms and catfish.

Furthermore, two out of ten key national science and technology projects would directly serve agriculture. The ministry regularly implemented programmes to transfer technology and help rural mountainous provinces apply advanced technologies to agriculture production, Quan said.

At present, he asserted, Vietnamese scientists could make high-quality rice varieties like those made in Thailand, which is famous for high quality. However, post-harvest technologies were far from meeting demand.

Deputy Truong Van Vo from southern Dong Nai Province mentioned the deforestation caused by the rubber industry, saying that the country had over 900,000ha of rubber land and planned to add about 800,000ha by 2020.

Phat reported that until 2011, rubber was only planted on 60,000ha of forestland, mostly infertile land in Central Highlands provinces. He promised that no more natural forest would be replaced by rubber growing areas.

However, he said that while the agriculture ministry took responsibility for excessive rubber growing, local authorities were also to blame.

Responding to deputy Le Nam from central Thanh Hoa Province's concern over the safety of dams and reservoirs, Phat said that there were about 6,800 reservoirs across the country with 1,200 in need of maintenance and upgrading.

This year, over 300 reservoirs were reported damaged, requiring about VND3 trillion (US$142million) to fix. So far, the Government has spent VND9.5 trillion (US$452million) to fix 90 reservoirs.

Morning session

In the morning session, on behalf of residents in the Central region, Deputy Nguyen Van Phuc from Ha Tinh Province called for the Government and the National Assembly to increase support for residents affected by regular and often fatal flooding by putting forward concrete policies.

These policies must be integrated with policies in building new rural areas, planning hydro-power plants and irrigation projects, he said, constructing flood-proof houses and prosecuting those who do not follow procedures in releasing flood waters from reservoirs and dams.

He insisted there is a need to pinpoint those responsible for discharging flood waters irresponsibly, which occurred the previous week, resulting in loss of life and damage to farming areas in the Central region.

"We can't accept the fact that flood waters were released but the local governments don't know anything about it," Phuc said.

Do Van Duong from HCM City asked that the Government and Industry and Trade Ministry to strengthen regulations related to the procedure on releasing flood waters and even putting forward criminal charges for those found responsible.

Nguyen Thai Hoc from Phu Yen Province criticised the Industry and Trade, and Agriculture and Rural Development Ministries for not having a detailed policy on supporting residents living in the areas of hydro-power projects.

"2013 will soon be over and we still don't have clear-cut policies, yet I feel this is also the responsibility of the agriculture ministry as well," he said.

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien spoke in regards to the case of a 37-year-old woman who was allegedly dumped into the river following botched cosmetic surgery at Cat Tuong beauty salon in Ha Noi last month; she said the case and the public up-roar was a huge warning to health staff at all levels.

"No doubt it is inhuman and it affected all of us, health staff across the country could not believe it was true," she said.

The Health Minister also said the ministry was working on ethical guidelines for the entire sector and is designing new hotlines for residents to call and report misconduct or malpractice. — VNS

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