|Nguyễn Đăng Nghĩa, director of the Centre for Tropical Agriculture Research and Consulting. Photo nongnghiep.vn
Nguyễn Đăng Nghĩa, director of the Centre for Tropical Agriculture Research and Consulting, said the completion of policies on organic agriculture will help Việt Nam seize the opportunity to become a supplier and exporter of food for the world market. He talks to Hải Quan (Customs) online newspaper about the matter.
The Government’s Decree 109/2018/NĐ-CP on organic agriculture has been in effect for three years. How do you evaluate the changes in organic agricultural production in Việt Nam since the issuance of this Decree?
Việt Nam's agricultural industry has experienced more than 40 years of innovative development. In addition to the achievements of the industry that bring prestige to Vietnamese agricultural products in the world market, Vietnamese agriculture, however, also faces many potential risks and significant consequences to the soil, water and the ecosystem.
Therefore, the promulgation and implementation of Decree 109/2018/NĐ-CP on organic agriculture is very timely, with the desire that Vietnamese agriculture will develop sustainably and quickly and Việt Nam will become one of the superpowers in agricultural exports.
After three years of implementation, the Decree has brought many positive changes. If in 2016, the organic fertiliser amount accounted for only about 5 per cent with 0.8 million tonnes, now it has increased to 20 per cent by 2022, equivalent to about three million tonnes and is constantly increasing.
Besides, currently, the rate of using biological pesticides has also increased to about 21 per cent. These are very rapid steps to create a foundation for organic agricultural production, especially rice production.
Along with promoting the use of biological pesticides, products and organic fertilisers, recently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has also directed the Plant Protection Department to expand the breeding of parasitic wasps, pintail beetles and beneficial organisms to destroy pests on important crops, especially in rice production.
Some southern provinces have been implementing models of organic agricultural production on rice, cashew, pineapple, mango and longan, to provide organic products for markets like Europe, North America and Japan.
In addition, there are organic aquaculture projects in Cà Mau, An Giang and organic farming models are gradually forming and bringing positive results, initially changing farming practices.
In addition to domestic consumption, Vietnamese organic products have been exported to markets such as Japan, the UK, Korea, Singapore and Russia.
The export turnover of organic products is still quite modest, what do you think about this?
Despite many positive steps, in general, the area of organic agricultural production in Việt Nam is still very limited and the production scale is still small. Currently, we do not have a plan for organic production, there are no separate mechanisms and policies to support organic production. Such policies can be integrated in other programmes and projects such as the hi-tech agriculture development programme, supporting agricultural production and consumption linkages.
In Việt Nam, there are not many organisations inspecting and certifying organic production. Most organic certifications have been provided by hired foreign organisations, so the cost is high and difficult to implement, especially for small businesses or household businesses.
Therefore, organic agricultural production is facing challenges in terms of producer income, production process and monitoring. Currently, the majority of farmers do not want to convert to organic agriculture due to unproven income attractiveness and an uncommitted consumption market. Moreover, the production process is still strict: it takes a long time to improve the soil and create a source of irrigation water to meet the quality requirements, so the production cost is high.
Another problem is that currently there is no set of specific regulations and standards for each type of product. The national standard TCVN 1104:2015 guiding the production, processing, labelling and marketing of foods produced by organic methods, issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2015, has not really come to life yet and it’s going to be replaced by the National Standard TCVN 11041:2017, which is being drafted with more detailed regulations.
What solutions are needed to solve these bottlenecks?
Currently, the world has compared Việt Nam to "the kitchen of the world". That shows the great potential of Vietnamese organic agricultural products in the world market and it can completely become a reality if the above-mentioned bottlenecks are soon removed.
Organic agricultural production is no longer a technical issue but a policy issue. Government and relevant ministries and branches that are in charge of matters like organic agriculture need to soon issue specific and feasible policies to support the development of organic agriculture.
Specifically, it is necessary to plan and protect areas of land and water sources that are not or are less polluted and are still suitable for commodity-oriented organic agricultural production. At the same time, there should be supportive and preferential policies for organisations and individuals involved in the production, processing and consumption of organic agricultural products. We have to make it transparent and harmonise the interests of enterprises, organisations and individuals participating in the chain.
The system of standards and regulations on production, processing, quality certification, inspection and supervision related to organic agriculture also needs to be perfected to serve as a basis for enterprises, cooperatives and farmers to develop their products.
In particular, by-products of agricultural production such as rice husks, coffee husks, coconut by-products, bagasse, cassava residue also need to be exploited and processed into organic fertilisers to return the nutrients to the soil.
If we do this, we will achieve many goals such as developing circular agriculture, increasing the value of agricultural products as well as meeting the environmental and social criteria that import markets are targeting. — VNS