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Restructuring necessary to help farmers enjoy better livelihoods

Update: June, 05/2014 - 09:18

The key objective of restructuring the agriculture sector is to raise the income of 15 million farmers, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat told Viet Nam Economics Times.

Why do we need to restructure the agriculture sector, instead of efforts to make it stronger?

We're very proud to say that Viet Nam is one of the 15 major agriculture exporters in the world. However, the income of farmers is decreasing. This is an indication of the weakness in the structure of the sector. This weakness is not a situational mistake, but a manifestation of the outdated structure of the sector. It is no more appropriated to a modern world.

Today, our agriculture has become a commodity sector bringing in a high percentage of exports to the country. For example, in the last 10 years, one third of our rice productivity, 90 per cent of rubber, 90 per cent of coffee and more than 50 per cent of aqua-products have been exported annually.

As we all know, agricultural production depends heavily on the world market. We have been negotiating with many countries on the free trade agreements and customs tariffs agreements and others.

When we talk about agriculture restructuring, it does not mean that we implement measures to respond to temporary situations. In the process of restructuring we want to make positive changes to the whole sector in order to help improve the income of our 15 million farmers.

We have embarked on the restructuring process for a year. What are the lessons learned over the year?

In the crop plantation sector, we have reviewed its development planning and restructured the main crops while developing plans to restructure the crops in the Song Hong (Red River) Delta and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta regions.

On April 22 this year, the Prime Minister issued a Decision 580 on its policy, to give seedlings to rice farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta wishing to grow maize, beans and other subsidiary crops instead of rice.

Under the PM's Decision, the government also gave financial support to implement a new production model - the value chain and large rice field in all 43 provinces nationwide on a total area of about 120,500 hectares.

Regarding livestock production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rura Development has asked the government to give support to households applying livestock safety in their production from 2014 to 2020.

In consultation with other line ministries, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has developed a decree on policies to support the fishery sector. The document is now on the Prime Minister's table for approval.

In addition, on May 13, the agriculture ministry also approved a project to improve the value add on agro-forestry and fishery processing products and to reduce the post harvest losses. We hope by 2020, we will be able to raise the value added to our agro-forestry and fishery products to at least 20 per cent.

What's about job training for farmers?

Job training for farmers is one of the main components in the process of agricultural restructuring. In the past few years, some 200,000 farmers attended training courses on practising advanced agriculture production. Seventy per cent of the learners have been able to apply what they learnt into their farm work. However, what has been achieved is still far below expectations. In the coming years, while designing courses, we'll try to address the needs of each locality.

Has the ministry adopted measures to encourage fishermen to keep going to the high seas?

The Prime Minister has instructed our ministry to work closely with other ministries to develop special policies to support the fishermen. Most of our fishing boats are made of wood. They are too weak when compared to the metal boats used by China.

In Quang Ngai central province the fishermen have been given support to produce metal fishing boats. Experiences in the past two years have showed us that many fishing households wanted to build metal boats, but they didn't have the money. So we realised the need to have better credit programmes to support fishermen wanting to build metal boats.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been running a project to provide communication equipment to more than 3,000 off-shore fishing boats and organise fishermen into production groups, so that they can help each other at sea.

Quite a few of agriculture firms are reported in bad debts. How will your ministry solve the problem?

We are in the process of restructuring enterprises under our management. In 2013, we successful equitised three corporations. Corporations in the government's list for such a move in 2014 will be equitised.

Regarding the bad debts owed by corporations of Vinafood 1 and Vinafood 2, I have ordered the establishment of a special inspection mission to go to the two corporations. When the mission is completed, we'll make public their conclusions. In the meantime, we have also asked other corporations to submit their financial statements and debt reports to us. — VNS

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