What VN has after 24 years as a “rice exporting power”?

VietNamNet Bridge - Why is the call for help of farmers not as loud as others in this difficult time? Is it because "the Agriculture Minister is too gentle!" as commented by Congressman Tran Hoang Ngan at the recent National Assembly session.

Where is agriculture going to?

rice export, rice power, farmer, market, rice quality

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development - Cao Duc Phat.

It's been a long time that farmers and those who are interested in agriculture could hear such sharp questions like those raised by NA Deputy -- Tran Hoang Ngan, to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development -- Cao Duc Phat, at the NA session, which closed last week.

The problems of Vietnamese farmers have repeated every year and they have not been solved. The biggest one is the “refrain” of having good crop – the prices for agricultural products, particularly rice, fall sharply.

Answering a reporter's question of how to ensure 30 percent profit for rice farmers as required by the Government, the Chairman of the Vietnam Food Association cum CEO of the Southern Region Food Corporation snapped: "At this time we can only say whether farmers can sell rice or not! If they don’t sell rice, give rice as food to ducks!"

Over 20 years ago, Vietnamese farmers were honored as the heroes who turned the country from a big rice importer to the second largest rice exporter in the world.

Looking back to late 19th century and early 20th century, Vietnam and Myanmar used to be two major rice exporters in Asia. Because of war, conflicts, they were absent from the rice market for a long time.

In 1989, thanks to the Doi Moi (renovation) policy, Vietnam returned to the throne of a big rice export, in the surprise of the world.

This achievement was so great that even in tens of years later, the achievements reports of all sectors had the line "contributing to turn the country into a rice exporting power!" It is reasonable if that line is in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s reports but many agencies that have nothing to do with agriculture and rice export also "shared" that achievement with great pride in their reports.

We mention this to see that this miraculous achievement had tremendous influences on many areas.

However, the sparkling aura of this position has faded in the later stage. To day, if farmers do not accept to sell off their rice, they must give it “to ducks!"

In 2012, the agriculture - rural development was considered a "bright spot" for being a pillar for the economy in crisis. Agricultural export revenue was still higher than 2011.

But the cost was very expensive: the more they produced, the bigger losses farmers suffered. The foreign currency for the country in crisis was extremely valuable but it was the sweat and tears of farmers.

Not only rice growers but also fruit and vegetable growers incurred loss. The media repeatedly reflected this situation but the situation was not improved. A number of policies and programs were launched but they made almost no effect.

Deputy Tran Hoang Ngan, at the question and answer session of the National Assembly on June 12 "spoke for" the farmers. According to him, while other industries in crisis such as real estate tried to seek the NA and the government’s support to overcome crisis, the cries of agricultural workers could not reach the central agencies.

In the previous sessions, when agricultural workers despaired of losses, the agenda of the National Assembly frequently mentioned measures and rescue packages for real estate!

Why is the call for the help of farmers not as loud as others in this difficult time? Is it because "the Agriculture Minister is too gentle!" Congressman Tran Hoang Ngan questioned.

In the Netherlands, one hectare of agricultural land brings about $40,000 of profit a year. In Taiwan, the annual income from one hectare of land is $12,000.

It is unfair to compare with other countries and territories but the agriculture that gets a "standstill" and goes backward in production efficiency cannot be normal.

Not only rice suffers a “bitter life"

rice export, rice power, farmer, market, rice quality

After a quarter of century back to the throne, the competitiveness of Vietnam rice still lags behind not only Thailand, but also the newly emerging powers like India and Myanmar and even Cambodia, which has just produced enough rice for local consumption in the last few years.

Also after a quarter of a century of selling rice to the world, besides the increasing output of rice, Vietnam has not really had its own markets. Just a small country like Cambodia joining the group of rice exporters can make Vietnam rice miserable.

The new advances in farming such as mechanization, technology, preservation, etc. .. have helped increase productivity. However, the biggest issue – organizing modern agriculture production, connecting rice production with the world market – has not obtained significant results.

The voice of reform and reorganization of agricultural production has been raised but there is no change.

Obviously, the commander of the agriculture sector cannot be so "gentle" as being commented by Congressman Tran Hoang Ngan, because he takes the helm for the fate of nearly 70 percent of the population of Vietnam, who are farmers.

Duy Chien

rice export, rice power, farmer, market, rice quality