Hau Giang Farm Products: Efforts to Expand Export Markets

3:45:05 PM | 2/3/2007

The determination of market-oriented production and the close association of four economic subjects (State, scientists, farmers and businessmen) is the appropriate development scheme for an agriculture-based province like Hau Giang. The association of production and consumption phases is also a joint effort to increase the competitiveness of Vietnamese agricultural commodities when Vietnam joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Developing market-oriented production
In 2006, pineapples grown in Cau Duc, Hau Giang Province were present at greengroceries in Coop Mart Supermarket in Can Tho City. This was the first agricultural product of Hau Giang Province to have a presence in a supermarket, and also a first message to farmers in the province. Currently, every three days the Cau Duc Cooperative supplies the supermarket with 500 kg of pineapple at a cost of VND2,000 each, nearly doubling the price at the farm. The cooperative is now cultivating nearly 30 ha of pineapples, with an output of 12 tonnes/ha a year. This yield far exceeds the demand by Co.op Mart Supermarket.
As for rice, since the winter-spring harvest in 2004 - 2005, Mekong Can Tho Joint Stock Company signed rice purchasing deals with nearly farming households in Hau Giang Province. Accordingly, since the beginning of that crop, the company provided on loan two new rice varieties, namely Jasmine 85 and VD 20, to be grown on an area of more than 1,000 ha, and agreed to buy rice at a floor price rate higher than the market price by VND200-400 a kg. With this method, the cultivation area was increased to over 1,500 ha in the winter-spring crop in 2005-2006.
As for sugarcane, after Vi Thanh and Phung Hiep sugar factories became operational, Can Tho Sugar Company (Casuco) carried out many farmer assistance programs and signed deals to purchase all sugarcane. According to Casuco, the Company has this year signed contracts to buy sugarcane planted on more than 8,000 ha in Hau Giang at an insured price of VND320-350 a kg, varying with the market price. Nguyen Van Dong, Director of Hau Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, asserted that apart from the two mentioned sugar factories, Hau Giang also has Long My Phat sugar and alcohol factory, a good consumer of sugarcane.
Hau Giang has nearly 140,000 ha of agricultural soil. Rice, sugarcane, pineapple and fruit trees are four staple plants in the province. On average, this area yields one million tonnes of rice, 1.4 million tonnes of sugarcane, 10,000 tonnes of pineapples and 140,000 tonnes of fruit. Mr Dong said the consumption of rice, pineapple and sugarcane is quite stable but this is not always the case for fruit. For the time being, the Hau Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has instructed Phu Thanh Cooperative, Phu Huu Commune and Chau Thanh District to develop “Nam Roi Phu Huu Grapefruit” trademark. Besides, the department also sets up projects to restore orchards, stretching over 500 ha along National Road 61.
Untapped domestic market
Hau Giang is holding great advantages for developing agriculture and aquaculture. High-value exportable farming and aquatic products include rice, freshwater fish, fruits and processed vegetables. However, with an annual production output of nearly 1.2 million tonnes of rice and with over 600,000 tonnes for export, the province hasn’t until now earned a single US dollar from this stable commodity. According to statistical archives, enterprises from Can Tho City annually purchase around 300,000 tonnes of rice in Hau Giang Province for export, earning more than US$70 million. The export of mushrooms and other agricultural commodities is in small quantity.
Of US$130 million export revenues in 2005, 97 per cent came from processed aquatic products and the remainder was contributed by freshwater aquatic products, vegetables, fruits and processed mushrooms. Although they contributed a small proportion of value, they were strong products of Hau Giang. Presently, to have a sufficient source of materials for export processing, local enterprises like Cafatex and Viet Hai (two major exporters in the province), have to buy materials in Bac Lieu, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Kien Giang provinces and even central and northern localities. In some cases they even import from other countries.
Solutions to export lessons
Mr Nguyen Thanh Hung, Director of Hau Giang Trade & Tourism Department, said weaknesses of Hau Giang Province-based companies are the inability to advertise themselves, and a heavy reliance on traditional markets. In the coming time, the Department will work with local companies to promote trade and seek more export markets for local commodities. In addition, the Department will propose the Vietnam Food Association assign Hau Giang to export some 10,000 tonnes of rice because Hau Giang can produce nearly one million tons of exportable rice annually. On these grounds, the province will set up an import-exporting company under the direct management of the department. The company will function as an import-export wholesaler for farm products, rice and aquatic products. With these activities, farm products will help increase export revenues for the province.
Apart from activities to expand exports of rice, Hau Giang needs to quickly boost the processing and exploitation of its other key agricultural commodities. Particularly, the province should invest to build pineapple processing factories for export, because Thai Duong Biological Company has closed its processing facilities in Vi Thanh Town since 2004, thus farmers have to cut down unmarketable fruits. In addition, the province needs to continue applying an easier investment mechanism and calling investment from other localities and enterprises with strong capital sources, wide consumption market and advanced technology. It will promote the building of facilities to process freshwater aquatics for export like thac lac fish (Notopterus notopterus Pallas) or process fresh fruits like renowned Phu Huu grapefruit, king orange and sweet orange. Last but not least, Hau Giang needs to pay attention to building processing factories in combination with developing local material areas in order to ensure the input supply for local factories in its long-term planning strategy because this helps create jobs for local people and increase incomes for farmers.
Thanh Nga