2020 in Review: agricultural sector “overcomes storms” to finish

Thursday, 2020-12-31 17:17:58
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Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong
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NDO – The COVID-19 pandemic; floods, droughts and saltwater intrusion across all three regions; the impact of trade wars among major economies on the consumption markets of several agricultural products; the countries’ enhancement of protective measures and technical barriers; all have affected Vietnam’s agricultural sector in 2020.

In “Overcoming storms” in 2020, the agricultural sector implemented the “dual goals” of developing the sector while preventing and controlling the epidemic, achieving positive results. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong has told the press.

Reporter: Could you talk about the development of the agricultural sector in 2020?

Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong: 2020 was a year of great challenges. However, overcoming these difficulties and challenges, the agricultural sector achieved a GDP growth rate of about 2.65%. This is a general indicator evaluating its overall positive development. The sector boosted production, especially of food and foodstuff, to meet the people's daily-life and consumption needs as well as exports requirements.

The second target that the sector has achieved was exports. Despite the great impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupting the supply, resource and global supply chains, agro-forestry and fishery export turnover reached US$41.25 billion, its highest level ever.

Regarding the building of new-style rural areas, 62% of communes have reached their target by the end of 2020, exceeding those set for 2020 and the five-year target the National Assembly assigned to the Government.

In spite of extreme natural disasters, the damage has been limited. People’s lives continued to be improved. Accordingly, farmers’ income was around VND43 million per person per year by the end of 2020.

Reporter: After a series of free trade agreements (FTA) came into effect, what were the opportunities and challenges for Vietnam’s agricultural sector?

Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong: In the roadmap for global economic integration, there was a very positive point that Vietnam actively integrated. The country joined 16 FTAs, of which 13 are already in effect. This is a great endeavour. In 2020, Vietnam signed successfully the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) which officially came into effect in August. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to be signed in the near future.

These FTAs, especially the new-generation agreements, create a very positive outlook for everyone, including the agricultural sector. The expanded market and preferential tariffs will create great opportunities for the sector to expand its market and gain higher levels of economic efficiency. In addition, investment flows, technology acquisition, cooperation exchange and development of human resources will also rise. These are very positive factors.

However, it must be affirmed that everything has two sides. On the competitive side, we have to accept very fierce competeition while we do not have many inherent advantages. If tariff barriers are removed, non-tariff and technical barriers will increase. Several regions in the world are even moving towards the path of trade protection.

On the other hand, Vietnam’s logistics development and improvement of other aspects of governance are not as good as developed economies. These are the huge challenges we face.

Reporter: 2021 has been assessed as a year when the agricultural sector will continue to face challenges. What measures will the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development prioritise to achieve the set goals?

Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong: In 2021, the world will have to accept enormous risks and challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the general supply chain and logistics affects many industries, including agricultural products. Besides these, the impacts of climate change continue to be extreme and unpredictable.

In this context, we are determined to focus on two major programmes.

The first is agricultural economic restructuring. Accordingly, the development of a modern agricultural industry and the creation of a closed value chain (from raw materials and processing to trade organisation) will be enhanced on the basis of synchronising all three main product groups: national key products (including 10 commodity groups with export value of US$1 billion and over), agricultural products as the strengths of the provinces (example Hung Yen longan and Bac Giang litchi), and the One Commune One Product initiative. Thus, with three product axes, it is necessary to direct commodity-oriented development on the basis of scientific and technological application to each scale, each region and each industry as appropriate.

In addition, it is crucial to constantly innovate governance on the basis of digital technology, towards its appropriate forms, especially in the production of smart agriculture.

In the process of integration, product quality should be improved. Therefore, organic, clean and specialty agriculture should be further focused upon. The relevant agencies need to pay a lot of attention to implementing measures to attract more investors. Many new-style cooperatives will be formed to work with farmers and form linkages. Farmers, cooperatives and businesses should create a smooth and perfect linkage chain across all production scales, levels and industries, towards the goal of agricultural restructuring in a modern, integrated, proactive and effective manner.

Reporter: In 2020, we witnessed an investment wave from enterprises into agriculture, creating a change of quality and improvement of value in Vietnam’s agricultural products. The attraction of investment into agriculture will also be a major policy in the near future. How do we attract more nuclear businesses to invest in agriculture and rural areas?

Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong: The assessment of the successes in agricultural restructuring and rural development over the past years show that the development of and close linkage between enterprises and cooperatives has become the core lynchpin in their connection with farmers. We think this is one of the key factors and a very important solution for the quality of agricultural restructuring and the building of a modern and integrated agriculture sector.

Therefore, overall solutions are necessary to encourage more enterprises to invest in agriculture in particular and rural areas in general. As a manager, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will advise the Government to continue to perfect mechanisms and policies, especially in the area of administrative reform. Besides this, the ministry will closely coordinate with localities to create the most favourable conditions for investors.

The relevant agencies will support farmers to accelerate the formation of new-style agricultural cooperatives because it is difficult for enterprises to make contact directly with each family.

In this way, the production axis of enterprises, cooperatives and farmers will be formed into a unified whole. This model is very suitable for Vietnam. The linkage pillar among enterprises, cooperatives and farmers is the key to creating a modern agriculture.

Reporter: There has been a large number of farmers moving out of the agricultural industry. The MoARD’s direction was also the development of a new generation of professional and modern farmers. How do we achieve this goal?

Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong: In order to speed up the development of a high-quality workforce in line with the conditions of modern agricultural restructuring, human resource training is the key solution.

The agricultural sector has developed plans to promote training centres related to the agricultural sector. Institutes and universities should focus on training programmes for management officials, business administrators and cooperatives as well as forming teams of skilled workers who can meet the requirements of agricultural restructuring in a modern manner.

Reporter: Thank you very much for the interview!