Agriculture Sector: Proactive, Confident and Creative to Surmount Headwinds

10:41:37 AM | 2/2/2024

2023 was a bumper year for agriculture. Agricultural GDP sharply rose 3.83%, the highest in 10 years. Agriculture reversed the situation and created new records, especially in the rice, vegetable, tuber and fruit sectors. In an interview with Vietnam Business Forum, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien said: Agriculture witnessed intertwined advantages and challenges in 2023, but with unity from awareness to action and effort for development, the agricultural sector achieved many positive outcomes.

Vietnam’s rice exports achieved an unprecedented peak in 2023, garnering US$4.78 billion

Agriculture gained many very good outcomes in all fields in 2023, with many first-ever records. Could you please tell us what helped the sector make so many achievements in the past year?

In a difficult context, the agricultural sector still achieved many important goals, with new positive factors showing signs of sustainability. Agriculture continued to reaffirm its important position as a pillar of the economy, firmly ensuring food security and major economic balances and supporting macroeconomic stability.

The export value of agricultural, forest and aquatic products totaled US$53.01 billion, making a record trade surplus of US$12.07 billion, an increase of 43.7% (accounting for over 42.5% of the country's trade surplus). Agriculture also ensured national food security and exported products to the world. This asserted Vietnam’s commitments to food security in the region and the world. Six agricultural exports brought home over US$3 billion: Vegetables: US$5.69 billion, rice: US$4.78 billion, cashew nuts: US$3.63 billion, coffee: US$4.18 billion, shrimp: US$3.38 billion, and wood products: US$13.37 billion. For the first time, forestry completed procedures to successfully transfer 10.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions to the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) through the World Bank (WB), earning VND1,200 billion (US$50 million) and contributing to forest development.

In addition, the agricultural sector successfully organized many major national and international events such as the International Vietnam Rice Festival - Hau Giang 2023, the Vietnam Craft Villages Conservation and Development Festival 2023 and the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management in an attempt to boost the image and brand of agricultural, forest and aquatic products domestically, regionally and internationally, and bolster domestic agricultural consumption. Especially, the sector launched the implementation of the Sustainable Rice Development Project of 1 million hectares, low emissions and green growth in the Mekong Delta by 2030.

This result came from the engagement of the entire political system, the coordination of central and local agencies, and the joint effort and consensus of businesses and people. Especially, there was a strong transformation from agricultural production thinking to agricultural economic thinking, from single-sector development to multi-sector cooperation and development. The sector promoted multi-value integration in agricultural, forestry and fishery and shifted from the agricultural supply chain to developing commodity chains.

How did the agricultural sector and farmers change to adopt market thinking?

The current agriculture remains fragmented and small and needs to be restructured and reorganized to prevent collapses and disruptions. The next stage of development of this sector needs to further focus on two key goals: Shifting from agricultural production thinking to agricultural economic thinking and creating valuable spaces for the sector.

In agricultural economic thinking, it is necessary to deepen and spread economic thinking. How to create more wealth on a unit of area, even on a smaller unit. In fact, agritourism has proven to increase profitability by 5-6 times, even a dozen times, without having to invest too much.

The second aspect is creating valuable spaces for the sector, associated with catchphrases like agricultural tourism, entertaining agriculture, fashion agriculture, high-tech agriculture and smart agriculture.

Coffee exports earned a remarkable revenue of US$4.18 billion in 2023

To access and serve demanding markets, what factors does the agricultural sector need to pay attention to?

To date, six agricultural products have earned an export value of over US$3 billion: Coffee, rice, vegetables, cashew nuts, shrimp and wooden products. Among them, the brightest highlights are rice and vegetables, becoming two "trump cards" of the agricultural sector in 2023.

Regarding the market, Vietnam has so far focused on the Chinese market because of its proximity, large consumer market and an easy-going market. But now businesses must anticipate risks, seek balances and open more markets.

Therefore, it is necessary to establish cooperation to sustain production sectors, restructure production, reorganize the market, link between producers and businesses, and strongly apply science and technology. To maintain the market, it is necessary to structure sectors and connect producers and businesses. The robust growth of agricultural exports helps Vietnam gain a foothold in foreign markets. This is also the strategy of the Party and State to affirm and convey the message: Vietnam is a transparent and responsible agricultural producer.

What are target approaches to sustainable and effective agricultural development in 2024 and beyond?

In 2024, the agricultural sector aimed for a target GDP growth of 3-3.5%, underpinned by crop growth of 2-2.2%, livestock growth of 4-5%, and fishery growth of 3.7-4%. The sector targeted for the export value of US$54-55 billion. 80% of communes will be accredited to meet new rural development standards. The forest coverage will stay stable at 42.02% and the forest production value will grow 5-5.5%. Up to 58% of rural households have access to standard water. 82% of communes will meet environmental and food safety criteria in new rural construction.

To achieve these goals, the agricultural sector will continue to step up restructuring to develop modern eco-agriculture, circular economy, and sustainable, transparent and responsible agriculture. There will be a strong shift from agricultural production thinking to agricultural economic thinking, from single-sector development to multi-sector cooperation and development. The sector promoted multi-value integration in agricultural, forestry and fishery and shifted from the agricultural supply chain to developing commodity chains.

Thank you very much!

By Minh Ngoc, Vietnam Business Forum