While the demand for vegetables, fruits and dairy increase recently compared to grains, Vietnam has been urged to map out new agricultural strategies to keep up with these new market trends.
The issue was top on agenda at the forum “Strengthening agricultural productivity and supply chains in Vietnam”, which was co-organised on October 3 in Hanoi by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD)’s Centre for Agricultural Policy, the ADB Institute and the French Development Agency (AFD).
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Speaking at the forum, Tin Htut Oo, Chairman of National Economic and Social Advisory Council of Myanmar, said that after the world food crisis in the 2007-2008 period, more countries became aware of the importance of agricultural production in the national economy and started to strengthen food production, and the food supply in the world has significantly increased.
He added, however, that in recent years, as several economies have gradually rebounded, living standards have improved and more people are migrating to urban areas.
“This has forced agriculture to adapt. Previously Vietnam focused on enhancing productivity but now food security is no longer a major domestic concern. It’s necessary to develop its agriculture into a commercial business so as to increase farmers’ incomes and value chains,” he recommended.
According to the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Science, the country should continue to maintain rice production along with expanding cultivation of industrial plants like rubber, coffee, tea and pepper, as well as growing more vegetables, fruits and flowers.
“Agricultural restructuring should aim at enhancing productivity by selecting new rice crops that give higher yields and better quality. Some rice cultivation areas should be used for the cultivation of maize to serve domestic animal feed production as well as growing soybean and other crops,” they suggested.
Lan Huong, a policy official from United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Vietnam said the restructuring should ensure more benefits for farmers as well as help maintain Vietnam’s status in the world’s farm produce markets.
She emphasised the necessity of of identifying key crops and animals so as to develop sustainable supply chains.
Encouraging private investment in agriculture
Nao Ikemoto, ADB, Senior Environment Specialist, said foreign direct investment in Vietnam’s agriculture is currently modest and now is a good time to try to boost private investment in the industry. The government’s investment in agriculture should also switch from irrigation infrastructure to research and development and agricultural promotion so as to increase production values and enhance its competitiveness. More attention should be paid to food safety and hygiene as well as environmental protection during the process, he said.
“Consumers now tend to prefer clean, environmentally-friendly and value-added products, so supply chains that meet these elements would be more likely to be successful and those which take part in such chains would benefit,” Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, IPSARD Deputy Director said.
According to Tuan, Vietnam should switch from increasing production to creating more benefits for farmers so as to encourage them to produce more valuable products.
“At present, Vietnam’s produce is facing fierce competition as the country still lacks professional agricultural supply chains. In the time to come, public-private partnerships should be encouraged so as to intensify cooperation between farmers and enterprises and foster development of standards, science and technology and trademark. Farmers would benefit from this,” Son added.