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Land pooling needed to boost agriculture: seminar

Update: May, 30/2017 - 09:58
Pooling of land is needed to improve agricultural efficiency, but the Government also needs to have policies to safeguard the benefits of both farmers and businesses, a seminar on land pooling heard in HCM City on Monday. — Photo

HCM CITY — Pooling of land is needed to improve agricultural efficiency, but the Government also needs to have policies to safeguard the benefits of both farmers and businesses, a seminar on land pooling heard in HCM City on Monday.

Nguyễn Đức Quang, editor-in-chief of Nông thôn Việt magazine, said Việt Nam’s agricultural development has not been commensurate with its potential due to many reasons, one of which is the scattered, small-sized nature of land holdings.

Nguyễn Thế Trung, a member of the Central Council of Theory and former party committee secretary of the central province of Nghệ An, said, “Việt Nam needs to deal with the two biggest obstacles to boost agriculture – speeding up land pooling and encouraging more businesses to invest in the agriculture.”

Land is still a troublesome issue, with its administration remaining confused, he said.

The household economy, with its scattered and small land lots, can no longer fulfil the need of developing agriculture on a large scale with competitive, high-quality produce, he said.

Promoting land pooling and using technology on large-scale farms would improve the capacity, quality and competitiveness of the agricultural sector and the economy, he said.

He said agricultural land pooling is actually occurring in many places in many ways: farmers contribute capital in the form of land and share profits with businesses, firms negotiate with households individually to rent or buy their lands, and authorities rent lands from farmers and lease them in turn to firms.

“I supported businesses renting land from farmers. But the Government must penalise both in case of violations.”

Prof Dr Võ Trí Hảo, deputy head of the HCM City University of Economy’s law faculty, said the Government must abolish limits on individual holding of farmlands. This would be tantamount to land pooling, he pointed out.

The land pooling process should be allowed to develop in line with market demand, with businesses and farmers negotiating between themselves, and the Government should not intervene through policies to appropriate lands and allocate them to businesses, said Huỳnh Văn Thòn, chairman of Lộc Trời Group.

Phan Chánh Dưỡng, lecturer at the Fulbright Economic Teaching Programme, said land is a means of production that should be allowed to change hands.

But the problem lies in how to promote this concept and make owners sell their lands to others and still feel secure about their benefit, he said.

Economist Dr Trần Du Lịch called for allowing farmers to lose their land and enter the labour market since the agricultural sector is short of workers.

But the problem lies in making them voluntary leave their lands and not forcing them into it, he said.

Land pooling should be done through proper policies, he said.

The Government’s vital role is to re-organise the production and distribution system to reduce costs, he added.

Many policies on land pooling are not appropriate for current socio-economic conditions, delegates said.

Some current legal regulations such as limits on land owernship and limit for land use time to maximum 50 years, need to be reconsidered, they said.

Farmers do not easily leave their lands, but then if they cultivate a tiny piece of land they cannot escape poverty, they said.

The Government should create conditions for businesses to expand their land holdings but have a legal framework to protect both farmers and businesses, they said.

Some delegates were concerned that land pooling could cause some farmers to lose their lands and loss of employment, warning businesses could abuse the pooling for their own benefit.

Delegates said under the pooling model, besides paying the lease, companies also hire farmers to work on their own lands, ensuring better incomes for them.

But they demanded very careful oversight of the process, saying that it is needed to prevent wrongful conversion of farmlands for residential, industrial and other commercial purposes.

Hồ Xuân Hùng, a former deputy agriculture minister, said the Government would announce changes in land administration regulations to improve efficiency of land usage and create conditions for more businesses to invest in agriculture. — VNS

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