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The weaknesses of Vietnam agriculture

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Startups in the agriculture sector are focusing on making products and ignoring projects on seed production.

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Vietnam has to import plant varieties


Duong Hoa Xo, deputy director of the HCMC Agriculture Department, said though there are many institutes and schools in the city, no new seed variety has been created for many years.

Seedling firms mostly import seeds and seedlings for sale, and don’t intend to produce and cross varieties. As a result, only 12 plant varieties out of 267 varieties in the market were created in Vietnam.

Bui Chi Buu, former head of the Southern Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, said it was costly and risky to invest in projects to create varieties. 

Vietnamese companies have decided to ‘play it safe’ by importing seeds to sell domestically for profit. 

Some state-owned organizations have taken losses by implementing such projects.

To settle the problem, Buu thinks that it would be better to implement projects under the mode of PPP, public-private partnership, with the cooperation of the state and businesses. 

This is the model applied by South Korea and Japan. Thailand has become the leading seed producer in the region thanks to the model.

At a recent conference, a leader of MARD (the Ministry of Agriculture and rural development) said, in the long term, the risk of losing export markets for Vietnam farm produce could occur because of technical barriers set by import countries. Product quality has decreased because of the degeneration of seeds.

“The difficulties for Vietnam’s farm produce in the next years can be anticipated now,” he said.

The members of the Vietnam Sugar and Sugarcane Association (VSSA), for example, cannot compete with regional countries in varieties.

Cao Anh Duong, head of the Sugar Research Institute (SRI), said at a workshop on new sugarcane varieties in September that there were too many import varieties.

Vietnam imported about 4,000 sugarcane varieties within three years, which is contrary to global trends.

As for rice varieties, a report of the Plantation Agency found that farmers in Mekong Delta sow 160-200 different rice varieties each crop. This is what makes Vietnam rice quality lower than other countries. 

As a result, Vietnam rice has a low selling price which is sold mostly to China, ASEAN and African countries.

Meanwhile, according to Phan Huy Thong, director of the National Center of Agricultural Expansion Encouragement, there are 600,000-700,000 hectares of cross-bred rice fields, of which 70 percent use imported varieties, mostly from China, India and Japan. 

And according to the Vietnam Seed Trade Association, the amount of cross-bred rice imported to Vietnam every year is 13,000-15,000 tons worth over $40 million.

As for sugarcane, in the 2014-2015 crop, the varieties from Thailand accounted for 48.1 percent of total area.


Source: Kham Pha - VietNamNet

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