Adjustments to Mekong Delta region master plan approved

NDO/VNA – Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has approved a number of adjustments to the development master plan for the Mekong Delta region until 2020, with a vision to 2050.

Accordingly, the region will head in the direction of green and sustainable growth and adaptation to climate change, aiming to become a national hub of agricultural production, fisheries, sea-based economy and eco and river tourism.

The Mekong Delta region covers Can Tho city and 12 provinces – An Giang, Ben Tre, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, Long An, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, and Vinh Long – with a total area of 40,576.6 industrial development, attention will be focused on agro-aquaculture-forestry and food processing; the support industry, and clean and renewable energy.

The development of new industrial parks (IPs) will be limited in order to fully exploit the existing parks, with the total area of IPs kept at 15,000-17,000 ha by 2030.

Can Tho city will be the region’s centre for agro-aquaculture processing and energy development, while Ca Mau, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Kien Giang and Bac Lieu provinces will be home to electricity centres and maritime economic zones. Multi-sector industrial parks will be based in Long An and Tien Giang.

The plan also designates Can Tho, My Tho city (Tien Giang province), and Phu Quoc island (Kien Giang province) into the region’s tourism centres.

Source: Nhan Dan (People) newspaper

Agriculture sector acts to lure more investments

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will continue reforming administrative procedures and improving the business environment to lure more investments into the sector this year, particularly hi-tech and organic agriculture.

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan, the MARD will review 508 administrative procedures and propose simplifying or cutting out 287 out of these administrative procedures, or 56.5 percent.

It will also review a total 345 business and investment conditions and propose that 118 of which be amended and cut out, equivalent to 34.2 percent.

Eighteen out of 40 specialised inspection procedures will be reviewed, while quarantine and clearance time will be shortened from 24 hours to no more than four hours for goods transported by land or air and no more than 10 hours for those transported by sea.

The ministry will continue the second phase of the National Single Window and ASEAN Single Window mechanisms at its five units, aimed at streamlining administrative procedures.

In 2017, the MARD actively implemented Resolution 35/NQ-CP on supporting and developing enterprises by 2020, and Resolution 19-2017/NQ-CP on the further implementation of key tasks and measures to improve the business environment and enhance the national competitiveness in 2017, with a vision to 2020, according to Tuan.

It focused on connecting enterprises on the basis of sectors, value chains, and scales, and between local and international firms, while providing assistance for social businesses and startups.

Level 4 online public services were offered at the ministry’s Department of Plant Protection and Department of Livestock Production, one-stop-shop online administrative procedure services were launched to support enterprises, and interactive services were enabled on the online portal of the ministry and its units’ websites to timely receive and address petitions.

The sector saw an increasing number of newly established firms with 1,955 companies in 2017, raising the total number of businesses investing in agriculture to 5,700.

Many major groups poured billions of USD into hi-tech and organic agriculture as one of their key orientations and gained significant achievements in the sector.

Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

Agricultural reform needed in Plain of Reeds region

The Đồng Tháp Mười (Plain of Reeds) area in the Mekong Delta, known for its agricultural prowess, is in need of major agricultural reform to reach its true potential, experts have said.

Authorities in the Plain of Reeds region, which spans Long An, Tiền Giang and Đồng Tháp provinces, have been dealing with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, including drought, floods and saltwater intrusion.

Last year, for example, salt intrusion affected around 10,000 hectares of rice crops in the region.

At a conference about the effects of climate change on the Mekong River, Dr Nguyễn Văn Khang, chairman of the Tiền Giang Union of Science and Technology Association, said that increased demand for hydroelectricity was affecting the flow of the Mekong River, leading to a drop in silt, an important element for soil fertility.

Trương Hữu Trí, director of the Gò Gòn Farmer Cooperative in Long An Province’s Tân Hưng District, said that officials must work to train farmers about new farming techniques since some of them were still reluctant to use advanced technology.

Many farmers are also pursuing inefficient methods. For example, pineapple farmers in Tiền Giang Province’s Tân Phước area, well-known for pineapple cultivation, have not made enough profit during this year’s harvest season.

Đặng Văn Hòa, a pineapple farmer, said: “Traders are only paying VNĐ1,500–4,500 for each pineapple, which is a lot lower than the mid-year price. Most of us can only break even.”

Although demand for pineapples continues to be stable, the spike in output during the peak season has resulted in lower prices.

Farmers have been urged by Hậu Giang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to join farmer cooperatives and spread the harvest throughout the year, rather than harvesting the entire area at the same time.

Đào Văn Hồ, director of the Việt Nam Trade Promotion Centre for Agriculture, said that more modern technology and better farming techniques should be used to cut costs and improve productivity as well as the quality of goods.

According to Hồ, the increased demand for high-quality products has led to a need for a better agricultural value chains. Distribution channels that keep track of the origin of crops, for example, are needed to ensure health standards, while regional markets need to be more standardised to ensure quality standards.

Reform measures

At a recent conference about Đồng Tháp Mười’s agricultural development, Dr Đặng Kiều Nhân from the Mekong Delta Development Research Institute said that industrial and service sectors must be involved in agricultural reform and be a part of the value chain, including producing a wider variety of processed products for different market segments.

Environmental protection and infrastructure development are also needed to improve the region’s agriculture, Nhân added.

At the conference, Lê Văn Hoàng, director of Long An Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that more research on better-yielding crops is needed to replace low-yielding crops now being cultivated.

Đồng Tháp Province was chosen for a pilot run to test agricultural reform policies three years ago, which included the application of modern technologies and farming techniques, promotion of processing of goods, and selection of better crops for cultivation and export.

The province has also encouraged farmers to form social clubs to share farming techniques.

Trần Văn Bình, president of a social club in Tân Quy Đông District, said: “Previously, some households kept their secrets and techniques to themselves, but now all members of the club share their knowledge and learn from each other. So a lot of households have benefited.”

Farming experts have also been helping connect farmers with better distribution channels and educate them about new techniques and market demand.

Officials in the area are looking to apply these policies to the rest of the Plain of Reeds region.