Field is exhausted in southern Bạc Liêu Province. Prolonged drought and salinisation are posing a serious threat to Việt Nam achieving this year’s economic growth target. – Photo zing.vn
HÀ NỘI – Prolonged drought and salinisation are posing a serious threat to Việt Nam achieving this year’s economic growth target, said an official yesterday.
Such extreme weather conditions first appeared in late 2014 and show no signs of letting up since peaking in summer 2015. This has taken a toll on the growth rate of the agricultural sector, which now has a negative rating of -2.69 per cent for the first time in decades. This statistic was made public yesterday by the General Statistics Office (GSO) during a press briefing on the country’s economic growth during the first quarter of this year.
The Mekong (Cửu Long) Delta consists of 12 provinces and is the most prominent rice production region in Việt Nam. The region is suffering from the most severe drought in nearly a century, while struggling simultaneously with saltwater intrusion. The combined threat resulted in a loss of about 700,000 tonnes of rice, or 6.2 per cent, compared to the same period last year.
The total growth rate of the whole agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector during the first three months of 2016 was down by 1.23 per cent, compared to last year. This resulted from a historic cold spell this year, which decreased agricultural productivity in the northern region.
The growth of the national gross domestic product (GDP) this quarter - the beginning of the five year development plan for 2016-2020 – only reached 5.46 per cent, a decline from 6.12 per cent during the same period last year.
“It is very complicated to calculate exactly how badly the negative agricultural growth impacted general economic growth,” said GSO’s National Accounts System Department Head Hà Quang Tuyến. “Yet it surely affected first quarter performance and could negatively impact the whole year, if the government has no solutions to it”.
“Should drought and salinisation continue throughout this year, they will very likely prevent Việt Nam from reaching its annual growth target,” said GSO General Director Nguyễn Bích Lâm.
The National Assembly earlier set the GDP target growth rate for 2016 at 6.7 per cent.
Prompted by the El Nino phenomenon, severe drought is still raging over the Central and the Central Highland regions. Nearly 42,000 ha of crops were damaged by drought conditions, so far. Meanwhile, both water shortages and saltwater intrusion affected about 340,000 ha in the Mekong Delta in the south, according to the latest reports by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
On Monday China doubled the amount of water released from its Jinghong reservoir, upstream on the Mekong River. This was done to ease the drought burden on Việt Nam’s Mekong Delta region. But experts warn such solution may only be temporary, since the dry season has yet to peak this summer. – VNS