farmers face life post-cooperative
Chuong, deputy general director of the Viet Nam Salt Corporation under the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, spoke with Nong thon Ngay nay
(Countryside Today) newspaper about the current state of the country’s salt
is the current standard of living of salt farmers?
In the past, the salt
industry was supported by subsidised cooperatives, with the farmers managing
their businesses and selling salt to these organisations, but despite this help
they were still very poor.
When the cooperatives
disbanded, they were replaced by enterprises whose dealings were directly linked
to the salt market. This system has proved more profitable for the salt
producers, who can live comfortably if they are connected with the right
their lives more difficult than those of producers in other sectors?
Definitely! Salt farmers
work very hard but receive comparatively little reward for their efforts.
During an inspection of a
salt field in the central province of Ha Tinh, former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet
said: "I realise that salt farmers are a unique subgroup of society, one
that has been forgotten for many years."
He pointed out that Viet
Nam’s salt producers have always suffered from low investment in their
industry, as well as problems caused by low salt prices, which mean that
sometimes they struggle to sell even a good crop.
does your company help the farmers?
So far, we have spent
around VND70 billion (US$4.4 million) helping salt farmers build roads, bridges,
dykes and irrigation works.
Although we sometimes have
difficulty supplying the necessary capital, we try our best to invest in and
build facilities to boost the salt industry, because this cements co-operative
ties with the producers.
about purchasing salt?
We are currently buying
around 40 per cent of salt produced by the farmers, with a target to buy 65 per
cent by 2010. The rest of the salt will be sold to enterprises and other
However, buying alone is
not enough. We must be able to give them a reasonable price, and to achieve this
government intervention is necessary - the State should co-ordinate the policies
of ministries and other sectors to stabilise the salt price. There should also
be other measures, such as supplying us with capital to buy unsold salt if the
farmers are struggling at a particular time.
company has been producing increasing amounts of purified salt. What is the
market for this?
We usually export between
20-30,000 tonnes of purified salt annually, although sometimes this figure is
much higher - in one year, we exported 100,000 tonnes, to Japan, the Republic of
Korea and Taiwan.
Viet Nam’s purified salt
is a potentially major export product, since it retains many of the positive
properties of sea salt. If we can harness the economic potential of this product
- it sells for around VND800,000 ($50) per tonne, about VND300,000 more than the
price of normal salt - we can improve the living standards of salt farmers.
you intend to increase purified salt production levels?
Thanh Hoa Salt, one of our
member companies, is working with co-operatives and salt farmers to apply new
technologies for the production of purified salt, and we are encouraging other
member companies in Nam Dinh, Nghe An and some southern provinces to follow
However, this product has
its limitations. The export totals are still relatively low, we often encounter
reluctance from farmers to apply the new production methods, and the high price
of the salt means that there is little demand for it on the domestic market.
can be done to overcome these difficulties?
Every year, the Government
spends hundreds of billions of Dong on the salt sector, but the low
returns the industry produces means that the State cannot tax farmers.
We have recently submitted
a development strategy for this sector to the Government, which should both
improve the lives of farmers and provide the State with tax revenue. We propose
that spending is increased to allow producers to build more salt stores and
production stations, and also to allow the company to buy all of the salt
produced. If these policies are applied, it should increase the profits of salt
producers and thereby allow the State to obtain tax revenue. — VNS