|Farmers harvest rice in Hoa Binh District, Bac Lieu Province. Agriculture is a key industry that drives competitiveness, enhances economic growth and serves as the momentum for inclusive growth in Southeast Asia. — Photo baobaclieu.vn
HCM CITY (VNS) — Agriculture is a key industry that drives competitiveness, enhances economic growth and serves as the momentum for inclusive growth in Southeast Asia, a ministry official said at a meeting held on Wednesday in HCM City.
Speaking at the Roundtable on Inclusive Agribusiness in Southeast Asia, Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said agriculture was the engine of growth for the ASEAN economy, with nearly 30 per cent of ASEAN's total land area devoted to the field. At least half of ASEAN's population relies on agricultural production.
Phat said that Viet Nam was restructuring its agricultural sector to improve profitability and sustainability, and added value to products.
"Our programme focuses on enhancing the value chain from production and processing to distribution and marketing," he said.
In Viet Nam, 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, with agriculture contributing 20 per cent of the country's GDP.
The government's objective is to maintain high growth, create more jobs, increase income and improve the livelihood of farmers, and, at the same time, protect the environment, Phat said.
The promotion of linkages between businesses and farmers plays a key role in achieving the objectives, he added.
Over the last five years, Viet Nam has brought together more than 40 organisations from the government, the private sector and civil society to work closely to develop value-chain partnerships on agricultural finance and priority commodities, including coffee, tea, corn, vegetables, spices and fisheries.
"We have been cooperating with leading multinational corporations and local companies to promote linkages between domestic and foreign enterprises, and between enterprises and farmers, in which special attention has been paid to ensuring farmers' benefits," he said.
At the same time, the aim is to ensure economic and environmental sustainability and reduction of emissions.
"The challenge now is to scale up, replicate and ensure sustainability of these efforts, which requires innovative approaches in business operations, investment strategies and new partnerships," he said.
Hugh Borrowman, Australian Ambassador to Viet Nam, also emphasised the need for innovation.
"Innovative public-private partnerships, such as those being pioneered by Grow Asia, are critical to boosting agricultural productivity and building the foundations for sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the region," he said.
Launched in April, Grow Asia is a regional partnership developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat, and funded jointly by the Australian and Canadian governments.
It aims to promote new inclusive agribusiness investment across ASEAN and foster greater regional cooperation to increase by 20 per cent productivity, profitability and environmental sustainability of 10 million regional smallholder farmers.
Innovative approaches to value chain development and scaling up of successful models are central to achieving these goals, according to Borrowman.
By improving productivity and building the foundations for sustainable economic growth, innovation will be critical in reducing poverty and food insecurity, he said.
Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, highlighted the critical role of the private sector in achieving growth and prosperity for the region.
The roundtable, funded by the Australian government, brings together private sector, civil society, agricultural organisations and government leaders from across the region to share inclusive business solutions and explore new market opportunities to support smallholder farmers from across ASEAN to increase their income and promote food security.
It builds on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Grow Asia initiative by strengthening networks, sharing knowledge, inspiring new research and collaborations, and exploring practical and innovative solutions to the challenges of growing agribusinesses in Southeast Asia. — VNS