Effort for Modern, Adaptive and Sustainable Agriculture

9:48:51 PM | 2/12/2021

Vietnam's agriculture has gradually deepened its strong international integration and globalization by utilizing free trade agreements (FTAs). Meanwhile, in 2020, adversely hit by complicated and unpredictable developments of the environment, climate and the epidemic, the agricultural sector supported the economy out of unpredictable global economic fluctuations to obtain great achievements. To have a more comprehensive view of the agricultural sector’s achievements in the past year and development directions in the coming time, the Vietnam Business Forum has an interview with Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tran Thanh Nam. Minh Ngoc reports.

Could you introduce outstanding achievements of the agricultural sector in 2020?

In 2021 and subsequent years, the world and the region are forecast to witness complicated and unpredictable developments: slow economic growth; the trade war between major economies; the Covid-19 pandemic in important export markets of Vietnam's agricultural, forest and aquatic products such as China, the EU and the U.S. where disease control measures are taken to contain contagion, thus causing disruptions of global supply chains; and the enforcement of new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) such as CPTPP and EVFTA - the most extensive and comprehensive integration of Vietnam ever.With its good supply capacity and extensive opening and integration, Vietnam has gradually affirmed its position in global agricultural, forest and aquatic markets; become a major supplier in the world agricultural market in terms of scale and commercial scope. The agricultural export value of Vietnam climbed from just US$486.2 million in 1986 to US$4.2 billion in 2000 and to US$41.2 billion in 2020, with a trade surplus of US$10.4 billion, an increase of 6.5% over 2019. Nine agricultural products earned over US$1 billion from exports, with five fetching over US$3 billion (woodwork, shrimp, vegetable and fruit, cashew nut, and rice). By market, in the past year, the agricultural sector opened new markets for many export products. For example, fresh lychee was officially exported to Japan for the first time; rambutan to Taiwan; strawberries and pumpkins to New Zealand; and shrimp and catfish to Brazil.

Besides, carrying out Resolution No. 26-NQ/TW on agriculture, farmers and rural areas, the National Target Program on New Rural Development has significantly contributed to agricultural, farmer, rural area and socioeconomic development. The rural economy has continuously grown well and strongly shifted toward industry and service. The agricultural sector is focusing on added value and sustainable development, increasing income for rural people and gradually narrowing the gap with the city. High-tech application to agricultural production has been adopted by many businesses, farms and farmers to achieve high economic efficiency. Many businesses have invested in building factories and establishments to preserve and process agricultural products in rural areas and support farmers.

Could you please tell us about the development orientations of the agricultural sector in 2021 and beyond?

To promote achievements in recent years, the agriculture and rural development sector is determined to continue its ongoing restructuring toward sustainable agricultural and rural development to enhance the value and competitiveness of agricultural products. Thus, this has helped raise the average income of rural people, develop modern agriculture, clean agriculture and organic agriculture, adapt to climate change and sustainable connectivity to global agricultural value chains. Particularly, focus will be placed on restructuring products, sectors and regions. To do this, it requires a high determination of the whole political system from central to local levels, from authorities to businesses and farmers who directly make products. At the same time, the agriculture and rural development sector is resolved to constantly improve leadership capacity, professional capacity and solidarity tradition to develop agriculture and rural areas in Vietnam.

Specifically, to successfully achieve the targets, the whole sector will continue to focus on implementing two major programs: Restructuring the agriculture sector and building a new countryside. In particular, it will concentrate on upgrading and modernizing agricultural and rural infrastructure to meet and serve the construction and development of modern, smart commercial agriculture, international integration and adaptation to climate change. Besides, it will invest in agricultural infrastructure development in the value chain (including infrastructure for agricultural production, processing, trade and services; connect agricultural infrastructure with technical infrastructure, economic infrastructure to enhance regional interconnectivity). In addition, it will strongly develop high-tech agriculture and smart agriculture to create breakthroughs in productivity, quality and sectoral administration; and develop the agricultural technology market by ensuring intellectual property rights. At the same time, it will perfect regulations and standards for industry management; and harmonize regional and international standards to boost export market expansion. The sector will continue comprehensive and sustainable rural development in association with rural urbanization; promote vocational training development; link handicraft industry with tourism services; and preserve and develop traditional culture, and protect the environment.

The One Commune One Product (OCOP) Program has produced initial success in rural economic development. Could you tell us what policy measures should be taken in the coming time to scale up OCOP development in the domestic market and for export?

After nearly three years of implementing the One Commune One Product (OCOP) Program, by the end of 2020, as many as 48 centrally governed provinces and cities assessed and graded their products. 2,169 products were qualified as at least 3-star standards, of which 43 products from 12 provinces and cities were submitted to the Specialized Council for recognition as National OCOP Products in 2020. This will help create key local agricultural export products. OCOP products have generated a large number of jobs and have quality, food safety, and geographical indication.

The OCOP Program has helped create jobs and promote rural economic development, especially lifting up the role of women and disadvantaged people such as ethnic minorities. Developing OCOP products is not only a solution to increase income but also an opportunity and condition for them to have time to take care of and fulfill their responsibility to their families and the local community. Many products have increased the product value and quality, and gradually formed OCOP product value chains, especially with the participation of cooperatives and enterprises.

In the coming time, it is necessary to have the participation of the entire political system, add this content to resolutions of the Party congresses at all levels, action plans of local Party committees and government. It is important to inform and raise awareness of the political system, the people and the community about the OCOP Program, particularly proper and full understanding of locally distinctive agricultural products and traditional services, to strengthen internal strength and enhance added value. Localities need to research and promulgate policies on OCOP support for actors to utilize their strengths and local resources for enhancing production capacity. Support solutions need to be focused on two main product groups: Certified and ranked OCOP products should be developed with trade promotion, market development support and distribution channels.

Potential products should be given priority to new product ideas, linked to local tradition, potential and advantages, facilitating stakeholders to improve their potential resources and develop OCOP products. Localities need to carry out synchronous OCOP programs and cycles, particularly the role of commune-level agencies in shaping and building local plans; and support actors and people to take part in the OCOP Program.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum