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Forum examines food security challenges

Update: September, 22/2012 - 09:46

Hoang Nam

 

A man works at a rice store owned by the An Giang Food Company. Viet Nam faces threats to its food security despite being the world's second largest rice exporter, according to experts. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HCM CITY (VNS)— Rising population, decreasing land for cultivation, climate change and low income from farming are posing major threats to national food security, experts warn.

By 2030, Viet Nam will have to feed a population of 100 million, a task made difficult by several factors including climate change impacts, they say.

Addressing the Viet Nam Food Security Forum held in HCM City yesterday, Dao Quoc Luan, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Planning Department, said: "Despite the fact that Viet Nam is the world's second largest rice exporter with 7 million tonnes shipped abroad every year, the country should prepare to maintain its food security."

Each year, the country's population increases by more than a million, which needs about 200,000 tonnes of rice.

But, over the past decade, Viet Nam has lost 27,000 ha of agricultural land every year, accounting for 300,000 tonnes of rice.

"If the water levels in the sea rise by one metre, 30 per cent of the agricultural land in Viet Nam will be affected, which means the country would lose 15 million tonnes of the total production of 45 million tonnes," Luan said.

Low income from farming is adding to concerns over lower productivity.

As part of efforts to ensure food security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plans to reserve 3.8 million ha of arable land, invest in storage facilities with a total capacity of 4 million tonnes of rice, and provide training in advanced cultivation methods to 1 million farmers.

"We spend VND6-7 trillion (around US$300-350 million) each year on constructions that serve agricultural production and climate change adaptation, and several trillion dong for seeds that ensure better quality," Luan added.

Vu Ngoc Tien, assistant FAO representative, said it was important to create an environment that encourages all stakeholders to participate in ensuring food security.

Government, scientists, the business community and farmers should all be part of the process.

It was also important to recognise that political mechanisms and right policies played an important role in food security, he said.

"We have seen the dramatic changes in Viet Nam after renovation: from a rice importer to a rice exporting country. Right policies from the Government will promote and maintain food security," Tien said.

Professor Vo Tong Xuan from the Tan Tao University spoke of the need to maintain food security "based on the value chain".

"Farmers should join the system with input and output companies. They will be trained and implement good production practices based on enterprises' demand. This will result in cheap, high quality products that are competitive," he said.

He said the establishment of farmer co-operatives, in which farmers would use land together to engage in large-scale production, should be encouraged.

"This will allow greater efficiency and easier access to support from the Government," he added.

Other speakers stressed the role of education in ensuring food security.

Carl Lukach, East Asia president of Du Pont, a US-based agricultural corporation, said that his company had carried out a training programme for 75,000 farmers that taught them how to improve productivity.

He revealed that Du Pont would invest $10 billion in food-related research and development for 4,000 new products in the next ten years.

Reducing waste

Limiting wastage of food should be part of the solutions applied for achieving food security, the forum heard.

"Restricting post-harvest losses, increasing storage capacity and improving packaging are practical solutions," Luan said.

Do Thi Ngoc Diep, director of HCM City's Nutrition Centre, said proper food consumption habits would improve health and limit waste.

Tien said FAO has released a nutrition guidebook for households that can be used to encourage healthy food habits and prevent wastage.

At present, food consumption makes up more than 50 per cent of household expenditure in Viet Nam and 14 per cent of the population still remain undernourished.

Seventy per cent of the country's population lived in rural areas and agriculture contributed 21 per cent of the nation's GDP, the forum heard. — VNS

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