Imprints of Vietnam - Korea Agricultural Cooperation

10:19:07 AM | 8/11/2019

Since the Vietnam - Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) officially came into effect in December 2015, Vietnam's agricultural products exported to Korea have increased sharply, making Vietnam the fourth largest trade partner of Korea and Korea the second largest trade partner of Vietnam.

10 years of cooperation

The two countries have made significant progress in bilateral relationship since they established diplomatic relations in 1992. However, it was not until 2009 that their agricultural relationship was officially established when the Korea Rural Development Administration (RDA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) and established the Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA Vietnam Center), which is located in VAAS. This event laid the foundation for a decade of successful agricultural cooperation for the two countries.

KOPIA supports developing countries to improve agricultural performance. Vietnam is the first country to carry out this policy of the Korean Government. KOPIA projects with Vietnam include technology transfer on developing biofuel crops, high-class vegetable varieties, technology for producing edible mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms, safe food production, temperate fruit tree development, agricultural extension, and Industry 4.0 application in agriculture. Total funding for the program is US$4,271,000.

During 10 years of cooperation, nearly 3,000 Korean crop varieties such as vegetables and biofuel crops have been tested throughout Vietnam's agricultural ecological regions, 60 of which are promising to be planted on a wide scale.

The program published 19 books on cooperation projects and delivered 22,350 copies to 950 agricultural agencies and organizations in Vietnam. In addition, personnel capacity building is also an important cooperation achievement of KOPIA and VAAS. As of 2018, more than 120 Vietnamese researchers and extension workers, of which more than a third are women, have had the opportunity to learn and cultivate agricultural technology in Korea.

Towards smart and sustainable agriculture

Vietnam and Korea have their own potential and advantages in agricultural development cooperation. Not only promoting the transfer of biotechnology and plant varieties, their agricultural cooperation has also been aimed for smart and sustainable agricultural development in the past years.

Within the framework of the joint research program on “Management of agricultural land systems for sustainable rural and agricultural development in the context of climate change” conducted since 2014, the National Institute of Agricultural Planning and Projection (NIAPP) and Korea Rural Economic Institute launched many practical and scientific activities to implement climate-resilient sustainable agricultural land management in the Red River Delta, Vietnam. At the same time, the two sides also proposed a project on “Agricultural land bank in the Red River Delta of Vietnam”, suggested and conducted feasibility studies for the project on “Improving agricultural value chains in the Red River Delta, Vietnam”.

In July 2019, the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Korean Rural Community Corporation (KRC) signed a cooperation agreement on an ODA-funded project on “Improving the rice value chain in the Red River Delta, Vietnam”. The South Korean government will provide Vietnam with 5 billion won (US$4.5 million) to make an overall agricultural development plan for the Red River Delta. The main purpose of the project is to improve the quality of rice grain; transfer technology, train human resource management, production and post-production management in order to improve the value chain to raise incomes for farmers. Then, the project will help boost the distribution and circulation of agricultural and aquatic products in Vietnam, said Mr. Kim Insik, Chairman of KRC.

Together with this project, KRC has been supporting Vietnam with a series of important projects aimed at building a smart and sustainable agriculture, such as the capacity building project for the National Centre for Veterinary Diagnosis, the mangrove rehabilitation and development project in Thai Binh province, the Vietnam - Korea green village development and afforestation projects in Ninh Thuan and Quang Nam provinces, and the Saemaul Undong rural development model, which is being applied in Bac Giang, Lao Cai, Phu Tho, Quang Tri and other localities.

Korea and Vietnam have similar economic development models in general and agricultural and rural development models in particular. From a resource-poor country, a small domestic market, after over a quarter of a century, Korea became a newly industrialized country (NIC). In 30 years (1960-1990), its GDP expanded 9.58% annually, with 14 years reaching over 10%, with the highest of 14.8% in 1973. Its per capita GDP increased from US$87 in 1960 to US$32,770 in 2018. Its economic development success is called the “Miracle on the Han River.”

Most recently, in August 2019, among its seven new projects, the Mekong - Korea Cooperation Fund (MKCF) decided to support Vietnam’s project on “Improving water use for better irrigation capacity for Mekong Delta agricultural development.”

In agricultural cooperation, South Korea is very experienced in making policies and mechanisms on rural development, especially advanced production agriculture models. Vietnam is currently accelerating agricultural restructuring to increase the added value and sustainable market-based development and new rural area construction, with which Korea is very experienced. The Saemaul Undong (New village movement) model, launched in the 1970s, has been a great success and is being effectively learned and applied by the National Target Program on New Countryside Construction of Vietnam.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said, “Vietnam also wants to learn from Korea's new rural construction experience to work out agricultural development policies towards high-tech agriculture with high-quality products”.

Nguyen Thanh