Applying advanced technology can lead to breakthroughs in the agriculture sector, Science and Technology Minister Nguyen Quan tells Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today).
A report by your ministry says there are 10,895 scientists working in agricultural technology with an annual VND1 trillion (US$46.7 million) budget for scientific research in agriculture. Then why is that we have not seen any major breakthrough in the agriculture sector?
First, I'd like to clarify that those 10,895 scientists are working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (not just in agricultural research).
Second, the annual VND1 trillion budget is not dedicated entirely to Research and Development (R&D). The budget must cover other expenses and R&D at the same time. And if we divide VND1 trillion by more than 10, 000 scientists working in more than 100 institutions across the country, the sum that can be allocated for each would be quite small.
At the national level, we do not invest a lot of money in R&D. It is just about 10 per cent of what other countries in the region are spending.
But we should also acknowledge that Viet Nam has come a long way. From a country which had to import food products we are now exporting them in large quantities. The annual export value of our agricultural and fishery products is about $30 billion, which is about 20 per cent of the country's total exports.
There are good models of agricultural production in the country, like the An Giang Plant Protection JSC. The provinces of Thai Binh and Nghe An are making effective investments in developing agricultural technology. I believe that in the near future, Viet Nam will become a country with an advanced and modernised agricultural sector.
In June last year, you spoke about implementing the latest breakthroughs in food preservation technologies from Japan and Israel. What has been done since?
Preservation technology plays an important role in Viet Nam's strategy to improve the value of our food products but it will take more than a year to master and apply the technology.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has successfully used the "Cash" technology from Japan and "Juran" technology from Israel to preserve a number of our products including tuna, shrimp and litchi fruit.
We may master advanced technologies but what is equally important is finding markets that will accept our products. The Government has tasked the Ministry of Commerce to approach and negotiate conditions for Vietnamese food products to enter new markets like Japan.
A recent example of Viet Nam effort on this front is the acquiring of tuna fishing and preservation technology Cash, both from Japan.
We are also working on a project to build a seafood factory equipped with the latest preservation technology. We aim to increase both the quality and quantity of our products for exports.
Genetically enhanced crops are considered a double-edged sword. Viet Nam will have to import seeds while it is still not clear what negative effects they will have on the environment. What's your opinion?
Genetically enhanced agricultural crops offer better resistance against diseases and insects as well as higher yields. It's true that for the time being we will have to depend on imported seed varieties, but that's why our scientists are working to develop the country's biotechnology industry so that we can become independent.
In fact, our scientists have already successfully researched new corn and bean varieties. They have to go through a process of careful observation and study before we can introduce them to farmers. Even then, the implementation will be limited to a small scale. We must not overlook any negative effects they may have on human health and the environment. — VNS