Vietnam Airlines to increase flights for Tet

The national flag carrier, Vietnam Airlines, has announced plans to increase the number of its flights to meet the expected rise in demand from domestic passengers during the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival and will run the promotion from January 25 to March 2.

Under the plan, it will schedule an extra 1,000 flights, equalling 174,500 seats.

The special flights for the largest festival in the country will cover 10 domestic routes, with the passenger numbers on the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City route forecast to see an annual rise of 10 percent and Ho Chi Minh City-Da Nang numbers to rise by 13 percent.-
French water businesses to explore VN’s market

A delegation of 16 French businesses from the water sector will explore market needs in Vietnam from November 5 as part of their week-long fact finding tour, which already began in Cambodia on November 1.

The businesses, including Altereo, APB Environment, Aquasure, De Dietrich and SCE, look to get a better insight into local demands through site visits and meetings with donors and partners.

The trip is expected to enable the French businesses to develop durable commercial, industrial or technological partnerships with local actors, according to the organiser, UBIFRANCE.

As scheduled, Altereo and SCE will, on November 6, organise a seminar in Hanoi to present two projects finance by France in Vietnam.

These include a feasibility study for the second phase of the project “Ho Chi Minh City Environmental Sanitation” and the implementation of a geographical information system for the technical and heritage-focused management of the drinking water network in the central coastal city of Nha Trang.

The Vietnamese Government has set targets of having 100 percent of the urban population access to clean drinking water and 80 percent of waste water treated by 2020.-

Foreign businesses seek opportunities in HCM City

Business delegations from Hungary and the Republic of Korea are seeking cooperation opportunities with local partners in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hungarian businesses operating in environmental protection, water treatment, information technology, agriculture, education and health, joined a Hungary-Vietnam business conference, held on November 1, aimed at fostering bilateral economic ties.

The conference, also attended by Szijjarto Peter, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and External Economic Relations and head of the Hungary sub-committee of the Vietnam-Hungary Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation, offered a chance for the two countries’ businesses to share their concerns about commercial activities as well as discuss current trade trends.

Also on the day, the nation’s southern economic hub welcomed businesses from the Republic of Korea ’s Busan city, which involve in food and beverage, medical equipment, and computers parts.

A representative from the delegation said that they want to meet partners operating in the same fields and are ready to franchise their products to Vietnamese partners.

Nation plans to grow more corn
Viet Nam targets to produce about 7.5 million tonnes of corn by 2020 in a bid to reduce its reliance on imports, a conference heard last Tuesday in HCM City.

Under the Government's corn development strategy until 2020, 1.3 million ha would be set aside for maize cultivation, yielding an average of 5.8 tonnes per ha, for a total production of 7.5 million tonnes a year.

By 2020, it is expected that the country would meet 80-85 per cent of demand for corn for livestock feed development, according to Pham Van Du, deputy director of Crop Production Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Du said at the Syngenta Asia-Pacific media conference that " the Government would increase investment and funding for institutes and research centres to develop breeding programmes."

"These programmes would help provide high yields, good quality corn, pest tolerance and drought resistance. Processing technology would also be developed and post-harvest storage would be improved under the new programmes."

Genetically modified hybrids would be used for production in large areas to increase yield, productivity and economic efficiency, he said.

The country has also encouraged companies, especially animal-feed producers, to sign contracts with farmers to develop raw material maize sources to ensure stable production and consumption.

In addition, local authorities have been advised to issue appropriate policies to support farmers who invest in developing maize.

Du said that practices needed to be improved for fertiliser application and irrigation systems as well.

He called for continued research and development of new hybrids that would be productive and respond well to climate changes.

Corn is one of the country's most important food crops. It is a primary source of feed for Viet Nam's poultry and livestock industry and an important source of income for many farmers.

Corn production increased sharply from about 730,000ha in 2001 to more than 1.1 million ha last year, of which more than 90 per cent were hybrids, providing an average yield of 4.3 tonne per ha.

If intensive practices are applied, corn yields could increase to 7-8 tonne per ha, Du said.

"The country produces about 4.6 million tonnes of maize a year. However, this is low compared to local demand. As a result, we have to import about one million tonnes of maize for local animal feed processing," Du said.

Rapid economic growth and accelerated urbanisation are expected to create even higher demand for maize.

Despite the potential for the industry, the sector is encountering many challenges, including high production costs and high post-harvest losses of 13-15 per cent, he said.

In addition, the implementation of technologies by farmers remains limited. Most maize grows in areas that have less intensive practices, and yields are low compared to the potential, according to Du.

Some major pests and diseases are found on maize crops, including borers, sheath blight, downy milder and rust.

Recently, striped dwarf viruses threatened production in the central coastal region. The viruses could spread to other areas.

Shane Emms, commercial unit head at Syngenta Viet Nam, said as a leading corn, watermelon and tomato seed company, the company's high quality seeds had helped farmers increase productivity.

The Asia-Pacific region has the largest corn growing area, but productivity is low, while yields in the US have reached nearly 10 tonnes per ha.

An average yield of corn in the Asia-Pacific region is about 5.1 tonnes per ha, so there is still potential to improve.

Online shopping helps firms reduce inventories

Many businesses are making it even easier for customers to access their products and services at promotional rates online, just a click away.

Shopping websites have become a lifebuoy for many Vietnamese companies and traders, helping them earn profits and reduce high inventories.

Truc Linh, the owner of a fashion store in Binh Thanh District, said she had advertised many promotion programmes on a board outside her shop but it failed to attract many customers.

Customer always asked for new products at cheap prices, she said.

To solve the problem, Linh decided to co-operate with some online shopping websites to sell her products.

She said that 100 vouchers with discounts of 20-40 per cent were sold on a website on the occasion of the National Women's Day last month.

With the vouchers, the buyers could come to her shop and collect the products or would enjoy free shipping, she said.

Home appliances, electronic goods, handicraft items and accessories are also being sold on shopping websites.

Online shopping has developed in Viet Nam for several years now, with an estimated 9,000 websites operating in the country.

However, only several dozens of these are professional, like,, and

Nguyen Son, representative of, said that his website had attracted nearly 50 companies and individuals in the short while that it has been operating.

He said traders and businessmen were actively looking for shopping websites to advertise their products.

Website staff would assist companies and traders formulate a suitable business strategy and contact customers for a reasonable fee of 10-20 per cent of a product's value, he said.

This new business method really saves time and money, he added.

Nguyen Hoanh Tien, deputy director of the website, said e-commerce has played a significant role in reducing inventories.

However, to develop their trademark and boost business, companies and traders must supply the website with information about their products'origin and quality.

For their part, websites must have a good secure system to protect sellers, buyers and themselves, he said.

Small sized projects increase

Supporting industry and software service investments pouring into Vietnam are stimulating the  proliferation of small-sized projects in southern hub industrial parks.

The size of new projects in southern hub industrial parks (IP) now commonly feature a capital value in the range of $200,000 to $3 million.

According to Long An Industrial Zones Authority (Liza), Liza granted 77 new investment certificates in the first nine months of 2012, an increase of 35 per cent compared to the corresponding time of 2011.

This included 31 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects with capital of $92.205 million, a reduction of 35.2 per cent, and 46 local, non-FDI projects with a capital of VND2,024.73 billion ($100 million), a reduction n 69.6 per cent compared to the corresponding time of 2011.

The development of supporting industry projects in IPs in Long An, with investments in small and medium enterprises in 2012, have led to more projects with a lower registered capital, said Nguyen Van Tinh, head of the Liza’s investment division.

According to Dong Nai Industrial Zones Authority (Diza), 35 new FDI projects came to Dong Nai in first 9 months of 2012 with capital of $614.725 million. Among them, Japan-based Lixil's construction material project accounts $511 million, while the remaining 34 projects account for $103.7 million.

Nguyen Phuong Lan, vice director of Diza, said there have been more and more supporting industry projects, especially from Japan, that have resulted in a reduction of average capital per project.

Supporting industry projects from Japan are usually small-sized projects. Moreover, they often lease factory space instead of investing in building a factory, which leads to a lower investment size, she added.

IP infrastructure investors that back built-in factories serve this trend, enhancing the wave of supporting industry, she said.

The Ho Chi Minh City Export Processing and Industrial Zone Authority (Hepza) reported , 41 FDI projects including expansion projects with capital of $134.17 million in the first nine months of 2012, including 13 new FDI projects with capital of $27.13 million.

Nguyen Tan Phuoc, vice chairman of Hepza, said that besides supporting industry projects, IPs and processing zones in Ho Chi Minh City have also seen more projects in sectors of distribution and software services with capital size of $200,000 to $1 million. Projects with investments of less than $200,000 have not been welcomed in the region's IPs, he added.

Finland to include Da Nang in innovation programme

The central city will be included as a partner in the second phase of the Innovation Partnership Programme (IPP) in Viet Nam between 2012-16, the Finish ambassador to Viet Nam, Kimmo Lahdevirta, told the city's administration.

IPP, which is an Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme financed by the governments of Viet Nam and Finland, aims to strengthen Viet Nam's National Innovation System (NIS).

The first phase of the programme was launched in 2009 in the eight cities and provinces of Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Thua Thien-Hue, HCM City, Can Tho, Lam Dong and An Giang.

The ambassador also said many hi-tech businesses from Finland have been seeking investment opportunities in Viet Nam, and Da Nang was seen as a potential location for investment.

Franchise fair offers new business opportunities

The Viet Nam International Shop and Franchise Show 2012 will open today at the Sai Gon Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Over 130 companies from Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, the US and France will participate in the fair, promoting businesses in many industries including furniture and equipment, interior design and decoration for shops, food and beverage, healthcare, education and training and consultancy services.

During the three-day event, seminars on on several topics including franchise laws and franchising know-how will be held.

Bankruptcy filings decline sharply in October

About 1,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy or suspended operations in October, down significantly compared with the figure of 5,000 for the previous month, according to statistics from the Government Office.

The number of enterprises to have reported suspension of business and bankruptcy during the first 10 months of this year is at 41,200, down 7.4 per cent over the same period last year.

Flash autos roll in due to loop hole

An import incentive policy is being used to bring new expensive cars into Vietnam.

Pursuant to Clause 3 in Ministry of Finance (MoF)’s Circular 118/2009/TT-BTC, overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) repatriates are liable to bring one personal car into Vietnam for use.

In reality after the import of fewer than nine seat brand-new cars into Vietnam was restricted following enforcement of Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Circular 20/2011/TT-BCT to reduce import of luxurious items into the country, traders have used this Viet Kieu import incentive loop hole.

Circular 20, effective from June 26, 2011, stipulates additional procedures for imported cars from nine seats or less.

In the recent past, a Dong Nai Customs Department representative voiced the need to have in place clear definition of ‘used cars’ to avoid preferential import policy being abused for import of new expensive cars into Vietnam.

“Through checking Viet Kieu records asking for auto import licences we came to know that most of their cars were newly bought to bring into Vietnam. Hence, personal cars of Viet Kieu repatriates also need to follow current regulations about used cars as having usage time of above six months and running not less than 10,000km in foreign countries which are currently applied to used cars eligible for import into Vietnam,” according to the Dong Nai Customs Department in a proposal.

Haiphong Customs Department’s management assumed the incentive policy on car imports as property of Viet Kieu repatriates being abused to cash in on tax exemptions such as import duty and value-added tax exemption.

This would create a big difference in retail price compared to similar imported car models bearing full taxes.

A Thua Thien-Hue Customs Department representative said local customs bodies found it hard to define authenticity of document sets provided by Viet Kieu like car ownership certificates, car circulation registration or Viet Kieu passports which were granted by different US states.

The customs bodies argued that Viet Kieu when bringing cars into Vietnam are only required to show family record book provided by Vietnamese police authority but not needed to show Ministry of Public Security’s decision allowing Viet Kieu to reside in Vietnam as regulated in Circular 27/2001/TTLT/BTM-TCHQ and this would create a loophole under which cars would be imported into Vietnam in the form of a Viet Kieu repatriate property to evade taxes.

In mid-2012 Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department had proposed the General Department of Customs turn to the MoF asking for imposing import duty on automobiles Viet Kieu brought into Vietnam as their asset to restrict commercial importation of less than nine seat cars into Vietnam.

Besides, in light of Item 2.c, Clause 101, Circular 194/2010/TT-BTC each Viet Kieu family allowed to reside in Vietnam only have one car each model exempted from paying import duty when bringing into Vietnam.

EU helps Viet Nam improve trade and investment policy

The European Union will provide 15 million euros (US$19.5 million) to support sustainable international trade and investment in Viet Nam.

The annoucement was made yesterday during a meeting between State President Truong Tan Sang and the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in Ha Noi.

The European Trade Policy and Investment Support Project is expected to further Viet Nam's integration into the global, ASEAN and sub-regional trading systems and to enhance EU-Viet Nam trade and investment relations, maximising benefits for the country's economic development, inclusive growth and poverty reduction work.

It also aims to support the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) in facilitating sustainable international trade and investment through improved capacity for policy making, policy consultation, and the negotiation and implementation of related commitments, particularly vis-a-vis the EU.

The two sides confirmed their commitment and support for the successful implementation of this important project, which is the continuation of 15 years of successful co-operation between the EU and the MoIT in the field of trade related technical assistance.

The European Union is the second largest export market for Viet Nam and its main grant donor with a total of US$1.01 billion in official development assistance in 2012.

The project has a total budget of 16.5 million euros, with the EU contributing 15 million euros and Viet Nam providing 1.5 million euros. The project will be implemented from 2012 to 2017.

Qualified farm experts must be hard to find

An official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development shook his head sadly at a recent conference and told Ha Noi farmers there was no hope of creating a market for vegetables that contained no pesticides or other production poisons.

His reply left them puzzled, especially since several stores in Ha Noi and HCM City are already selling chemically-free, organically grown fruit, vegetables, chicken and pork. It seems that customers do not mind paying an extra 10 or even 20 per cent for food as pure as it was 60 years ago before farming with chemicals started to seduce governments and people throughout the world.

Using hundreds of billions of dong in State financial assistance, farmers in northern provinces have developed nearly 15,000ha of market gardens producing safe vegetables. However, when they try to sell them, they are on their own. Most of the projects fail to include marketing, a vital piece of reality.

Other farmers share the same fate. Earlier projects helped hundreds of dairy farmers raise milk cows. Each received assistance of VND14 million (US$666) per milk cow. However, sales were low because there had been no promotion.

Similarly, many farmers in southern provinces received financial aid to grow fruit according to Global Good Agricultural Practices in the hope it would boost their exports. However, they could not obtain export contracts and had to cease specialised farming because it was costing them too much.

Although money keeps being funnelled into raising the quality and quantity of agricultural products, it seems little or nothing is earmarked for developing markets for better, safer products.

I totally agree with the leader of a large farm export company who said that authorities only cared about spending money on equipment, materials and technical issues when implementing projects, not marketing. However, as we all know, sales are the key to the whole farm investment process. Without sales, it's pointless growing better and safer fruit, rice and livestock.

During 2009-11, investment projects in agriculture cost the State Budget a total of more than VND286 trillion ($13.6 billion). However, farmers who were desperate to sell their improved produce became the prey of traders who forced them to sell their super products at the lowest prices, sometimes for only a fourth of that paid by consumers.

Worse, many traders hoodwinked farmers into growing environmentally hazardous plants and animals, always with a promise to pay high prices. Thousands of ha of rice fields, orchards and fish farms were replaced by invasive alien species, such as yellow snails, Japanese water ferns, Mimosa Pigra (Giant Sensitive Tree), Sorghum Sundanese and various kinds of fish and reptiles. However, when the alien species started taking over, the traders vanished – with their promises, leaving the naive farmers on their lonesome. Many of their sorry victims had to shoulder heavy debts and were forced to give up farming.

Viet Nam is a country with a long, long history of successful agriculture. It still employs more than 70 per cent of the nation's workers and last year earned more than $20 billion in exports alone. However, according to an Oxfam report published in October, poverty continues to be a predominantly rural phenomenon with 90 per cent of Viet Nam's poor people living in rural areas. Agriculture remains the largest employer of the poorest people in the country. More than 9 million farming households survive on less than half a ha.

Farmers are often left without markets. They fall into the vicious circle of growing plants and animals that attract few customers and occasionally seek newer breeds or seeds for the next season.

So why do project developers and the authorities ignore the marketing of all these new products after investing in them? Is it really possible that they just sit in their offices and plan everything, but leave farmers to manage the consumption market by themselves?

Why don't the authorities study the real demands of the agricultural market before deciding where and what to invest in? Farmers, particularly in Viet Nam, have always been primary producers. This means they are generally not skilled at selling their products competitively – and are not expected to. This is the traditional job of the middle men, the traders – and the retailers.

Maybe this simple fact has escaped the bureaucrats pushing the pens, I don't think these so-called experts should start any investment projects without completing their home work. Farmers should not, again, become the poor victims of the urban class. And the State budget should not be wasted on half-cocked schemes that should not see the light of day.

State budget investment in agriculture is currently at 6.3 per cent, down from the 13.8 per cent of a decade ago, but it is still necessary. Comprehensive market research and well-informed vision are needed to popularise new and better farm products and procedures.

I am impressed by the suggestion that community-based organisations can help farmers get involved in the Government planning process by outlining their needs and aspirations. Farmers' voices should be heard more.

Farmers have been the backbone of the Vietnamese nation for more than 4,000 years. If things can't be done to improve their situation in modern times, then don't make them worse! The hard working feeders of the nation are already busy enough dealing with climate change, pollution and losing vast amounts of land to industrial parks and golf courses.

Vietnam actively participates in TPP negotiations

The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) provides Vietnam with a good opportunity to boost its exports to potential markets and attract more foreign investors to the country.    

The statement was made by Trade Counselor Hoang Tuan Viet at a recent seminar on TPP negotiations in Mexico.

The event was attended by representatives from Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia and Peru.

The Vietnamese official said that Vietnam was invited to join the TPP in early 2009 and officially admitted to this partnership mechanism in October 2010.

So far, the TPP has 11 member countries - Brunei, Canada, Chile, the US, Malaysia, New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Vietnam’s coffee exports beat Brazil

Coffee exports in the past 10 months set a new record at 1.41 million tonnes, earning more than US$3 billion, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reported.    

The 10-month figures showed year-on-year increases of 37.7 percent in volume and 32.7 percent in value.

The demand of two biggest coffee import markets, the US (accounting for 12.11 percent of Vietnam’s export value) and Germany (12.09 percent) continued to grow.

Also, coffee exported to Indonesia increased 9.4 times in volume and 8.8 times in value, compared to last year’s period.

Vietnam now has surpassed Brazil to become the biggest coffee exporter since the beginning of the third quarter this year, International Coffee Organization statistics show.

Coffee exports were forecast to reach 1.6-1.7 million tonnes this year.

The ministry’s Crop Production Department said Vietnam must continue to focus on coffee quality for the sector to develop sustainably.

The department recommended the application of modern farming techniques and processing technologies, together with the acceleration of promotional activities and trademark protection, to help boost the coffee sector.

Improving ODA efficiency

The disbursement of official development assistance (ODA) has increased significantly in the past ten months, providing fresh impetus for national economic development.    

It is estimated at US$3.22 billion, surpassing the target and will increase sharply when the Consultative Group Meeting (CG) is scheduled to take place next month.

According to the latest statistics by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), Vietnam has attracted 35 ODA projects worth over US$3.686 billion since early this year, of which, about US$30.17 million is given in the form of non-refundable aid, equivalent to 78.1 percent of last year’s figure.

MPI Deputy Minister Cao Viet Sinh says ODA is an important source of capital for the national economy, especially when the State budget is shrinking with its funding for projects in the past ten months, standing at 74.7 percent of the yearly plan, he adds.

In difficult circumstances, ODA is considered an effective short-term solution to help cash-strapped businesses.

Over the past two decades, the amount of ODA funding has kept increasing despite the country’s GDP per capita reaching exceeding US$1,000/year.

From 1993 to 2011, annual ODA commitments reached US$3.62 billion on average with just US$1.67 billion disbursed a year.

Since 1993, Vietnam has disbursed more than US$35.5 billion to 50.2 percent of ODA commitments, equal to 13.9 percent of its total social investment.

ODA, to certain extent, has helped increase Vietnam’s foreign currency reserves and improve its overall trade balance.

Non-refundable aid which makes up 10-20 percent of total ODA funding has a duration term of 30-40 years with preferential interest rates of just 1 percent or a little more. But it gives a strong boost to various projects, especially related to poverty reduction, infrastructure development, and environmental protection.

As Vietnam has shed its status as one of low-income countries it needs to use ODA funding with increasing efficiency for the benefit of socio-economic development.

HCM City fair attracts foreign jewelry makers

The annual Vietnam International Jewelry Exhibition Fair (VIJF 2012), organised by the Saigon Jewelry Company Limited (SJC), was opened in Ho Chi Minh City on November 1.   

The five-day fair has attracted more than 140 stands, representing countries such as Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the US.

Major local brands are being showcased at the event, such as SJC, Doji, PNJ, Cao, Zela, Goodman, Unique, Golden Dew, Sacombank, and Phuong Nam.

The fair is divided into two main areas, with the first displaying local and international jewelry and the other introducing machinery and technologies from both domestic and foreign firms.

During the fair, there will be a seminar on the “Knowledge and Understanding of Natural Diamonds and other Semi-precious Stones” and demonstrations of the latest collections of fine jewelry and gemstones from Vietnamese companies.

Int’l Franchising show launched in HCM City

The Vietnam International Shop and Franchise Show (VIETSF 2012) opened at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Center in Ho Chi Minh City on November 1.   

VIETSF 2012 has attracted more than 270 stands representing 150 domestic and foreign enterprises, with big names such as Tous Les Jours, D’art Chocolate, Curves, GNC, and Uncle Bills.

Other exhibitors include consulting companies specialising in franchise law, such as Limcharoen Hughes & Granville and Harvey Law Group.

The show aims to create favorable conditions for enterprises to exchange experience, promote their products, and seek new business partnerships.

During the event, a number of seminars covering leasing, franchise regulations and Korean food will also be held.

The three-day event is co-organised by the Vietnam National Trade Fair & Advertising Company (VINEXAD) and the Korea International Trade Association, COEX.

Footwear exports gaining momentum

Despite the impact of world economic slowdown, the footwear sector expects to achieve an average growth of more than 10 percent this year.    

Judging by the latest statistics from the Vietnam Customs, the footwear sector is likely to earn US$7.3 billion from total exports in 2012, up 12 percent compared to last year’s figure.

By far, it has exported US$5.45 billion worth of different products, up US$600 million from a year earlier, showing its growth of 12.3 percent.

In the first two quarters, footwear exports rose 16.4 percent to more than US$3.5 billion against the same period last year. This was owing to co-ordinated efforts by businesses to fulfill contracts signed with the EU and other countries.

The EU was Vietnam’s largest market, accounting for US$1.29 billion or 40.2 percent of its total export turnover (up 6.5 percent). Footwear exports to Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic increased considerably, by 228.8 percent, 147.6 percent and 136.7 percent respectively. The footwear sector also achieved impressive export growth in Sweden (43.2 percent), Belgium (25 percent) and France (10.1 percent).

The Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association said that in order to achieve this year’s export target of US$7.3 billion, the sector has closely coordinated with relevant agencies, international organisations and major partners to iron out snags in export business, especially in the face of trade protection and anti-dumping lawsuits. It has also focused on improving both production and management capacities.

There is a long-term plan afoot to establish and develop satellite production establishments, employ human resources from rural areas, overcome labour shortages, raise incomes for rural labourers, and step up sales and marketing activities.

The bottom line is that businesses need to maintain traditional markets such as the EU, the US, Japan and China and find new markets like Canada, India and member countries of the ASEAN bloc.

Vietnamese lead foreign arrivals in Cambodia

Vietnam has confirmed its position as the largest source of tourists to visit Cambodia in the first nine months this year, with over 580,000, up 25 percent year on year, reports Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism.

The Republic of Korea ranked second with 306,000 and third place went to China, followed by Laos, Thailand, Japan, the US and France.

With tourism being one of the country’s key sectors, its famous temples add to its efforts to increase its non-industrial based economy, which has grown steadily in recent years.

Cambodia will step up tourist promotions abroad, especially in ASEAN countries, said Tith Chantha, Director of the Tourism Department under the ministry.

In the first three quarters of this year, Cambodia attracted almost 2.57 million international visitors, up nearly 24 percent year on year.

In 2011, Cambodia earned US$2.5 billion from tourism, making up the lion share of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Tan Rai bauxite plant years behind schedule

The Tan Rai bauxite factory, part of the Lam Dong Aluminum-Bauxite Complex Project in the central highlands province of Lam Dong, did not come into operation yesterday as planned because it was still under construction, the project management board said.

The board said the delay - 2 years behind schedule - was because the construction process relied on complicated technology and trials had not gone as smoothly as expected.

The factory was expected to churn out its first products in early December, they said. Currently, the main facilities have been completed and about 100,000 tonnes of raw ore have been produced.

Cable service provider increases subscription fees

The Saigontourist Cable Television (SCTV) network will raise its subscription fees by 25 per cent in HCM City and the provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Tay Ninh beginning this month.

Customers will now have to pay VND109,000 (US$5.19) a month, up from VND88,000.

This is SCTV's second price hike. The first one was in 2010, when the rates were increased to VND88,000 a month from VND66,000.

The network's fees in other provinces will remain unchanged.

A letter sent by the cable TV services provider to its customers says it has had to increase the fees because it has to make higher copyright payments for many entertainment programmes and international sports games.

Nguyen Tan Khoa, head of SCTV's Organisation and Administration Department, said customers have been able to enjoy many new foreign films and international sports competitions on SCTV this year.

"Since August, SCTV customers can watch football tournaments from many foreign countries including Italian Serie A, French Ligue 2 and Spanish La Liga, which previously were only shown on the cable TV network K+," Khoa said.

"SCTV is currently showing WTA tennis tournament for women and is negotiating to buy broadcasting rights for the ATP tennis championships."

Other pay TV service providers, including K+ and HTVC, have said they would not increase their fees this year.

HTVC fee is VND66,000 a month. K+ offers three packages, the most expensive being its HD service, which costs VND300,000 a month.