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    Only cow-breeding centre not destroyed for golf course
    Update :Wednesday, 6-17-2009

    VietNamNet Bridge – Questioning Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat on June 11, many deputies asked about the development of industrial zones and golf courses on agricultural land and threats to the country’s food security.


    Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat at the question and answer session on June 11.


    Deputies also questioned Phat about the government’s use of the stimulus package for agriculture, agriculture development, rural infrastructure and afforestation.


    Cultivated land narrowed, imports of agricultural products


    Deputy Nguyen Lan Dung from Lam Dong province and Nguyen Van Phuc from Binh Thuan province brought up industrial zones and golf courses being built on fat soil. Even the country’s only freeze-dried cow sperm centre may be destroyed to build a golf course.


    Phat said that his Ministry asked Hanoi to consider maintaining this centre. About the narrowing of agricultural land, he said the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment had to answer this question.


    Local governments that take back agricultural land and then leave them unused have to be accountable for this. The Agriculture Ministry will share the responsibility as the management agency of agricultural land.


    Deputy Le Minh Hien from Khanh Hoa province asked why Vietnam had to import cotton, maize, soybean or salt though it is an agricultural country.


    Phat answered: Vietnam is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the country has integrated into the world economy. Vietnam will develop products which it has advantages in. The country will apply technology to develop products it is not particularly suited for, for example maize. For salt, Vietnam has a long coast but Vietnamese farmers are producing salt by traditional methods resulting in low output and quality. If the Quan The industrial salt field begins operating this year’s end, Vietnam can produce sufficient salt for itself.


    However, Vietnam cannot close its door on imported products like cotton, soybean, maize and others.


    NA Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong asked Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang to clarify this issue. Hoang said Vietnam cannot produce all kinds of material, for example cotton.


    Vietnam’s cotton output can satisfy 10 percent of the cotton fibre needed for the local textile industry so it has to import 90 percent. The Industry and Trade Ministry has asked the Vietnam Textile-Garment Group to gradually tackle this weakness. Vietnam has tried to produce other materials but it cannot do it all itself.


    Stimulus package and forest coverage


    Deputy Do Huu Lam from Long An province said agricultural production in the Mekong River Delta, which produces a large percentage of the country’s food, was hampered by lack of infrastructure and difficulties in marketing. With the stimulus package in agriculture, how would the country make local rice production sustainable and improve product quality to be comparable to Thai rice, Lam asked?


    Phat said the government had paid a great deal of attention to the region as its rice production was necessary to ensure the country’s food security. The agricultural sector will receive investment this year of 42 trillion dong (US$2.36 billion).


    In the investment process, the Agriculture Ministry has directed a review of the delta irrigation system in the context of climate change. Research shows that with the expected rise in sea level, the delta will be among the most affected in the world.


    “The government has earmarked capital for infrastructure investment in general, including the Mekong Delta. We are working with the World Bank to develop a big loan programme for this target,” Phat said.


    The government gives priorities to the agricultural and rural areas that most benefit the nation’s economy, he said.


    “In a preferential loan programme with a subsidy of 4 percent interest, 18 percent – equal to 60 trillion dong ($3.3 billion), of a total of 336 trillion ($18.6 billion) – will be given to farmers,” Phat added.


    Deputy Vu Quang Hai from Hung Yen province said that while Vietnam had potential to export agricultural products such as rice, coffee, rubber and seafood, its per-capita value of agricultural production was the lowest of the five other countries in the region.


    Hai also said that many products could not compete even in the domestic market with products from China, Thailand and the US flowing into the country.


    Phat said the country was narrow and crowded, but was one of the biggest exporters of agricultural products in the world. Last year its export value was $14.5 billion.


    Vietnam has many competitive products, he said, including rice, coffee, rubber, cashews, pepper, tea, seafood and furniture. There are, however, a number of uncompetitive products such as cotton, maize, tobacco, soybeans and milk.


    Regarding a question on qualified experts working at institutes and in big cities rather than in rural areas, Phat said the government had organised for each commune to have an agricultural extension worker and an animal health worker, bringing the total agricultural staff working in communes to 20,000.


    “Policies have been issued to encourage staff from institutes and universities to work directly with farmers in the field,” Phat said.


    The government also has a non-interest loan programme for farmers to buy machines, agricultural and house building materials. The ministry has issued circulars and regulations for the management of vegetable fields and orchards, including planting vegetables in net-houses, and packaging.


    “We expect to cover all areas with safe vegetables by 2015,” Phat said.


    For questions about forestry and forest destruction, Phat replied that forest covered about 40.35 percent of the country’s natural acreage but it would be difficult to reach the assembly’s target of 43 percent by 2010.


    “We will do our best to protect and plant forest. Last year, we planted 240,000ha of forest but we exploited 100,000ha,” he said.


    To reach the target, the sector will be pressed to improve conditions for households, communities, organisations and people in and out of the country to take part in afforestation, while examinations would be carried out to identify and solve the problems.


    “We need to effectively carry out the government’s hunger elimination and poverty reduction programme to improve people’s living standards, through which we can protect the forest,” Phat said.


    After the session, NA Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong said that the Agriculture Minister needed to pay more attention to putting an end to the situation that Vietnam, a country with over 3,000km of coast, has to import salt and in mountainous areas, many people have to eat maize and cassava, though Vietnam is the second-biggest rice exporting country in the world. 


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