Rosy forecast for agricultural sector in 2018

09:03 | 19/02/2018 Society

(VEN) - In 2017, the agriculture and rural development sector overcame numerous difficulties and challenges, realizing and exceeding targets set by the government. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong shared with Vietnam Economic News’ Nguyen Hanh the sector’s 2017 results and its tasks for 2018.

rosy forecast for agricultural sector in 2018
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong

Could you share the agriculture and rural development sector’s 2017 results?

In 2017, the agricultural sector overcame numerous difficulties and achieved noteworthy results. Specifically, its annual growth rate reached 2.94 percent and export value US$36.37 billion, both exceeding the targets set by the government.

The sector recorded a trade surplus of US$8.55 billion, US$1 billion higher compared with 2016. Seafood exports for the first time exceeded US$8 billion; wood exports for the first time reached US$8 billion; fruit and vegetable exports moved ahead of rice with value reaching US$3.45 billion. As many as 2,884 communes have been recognized as new rural areas, exceeding the plan by 31 percent. These results reflect the right way the agricultural sector is moving to restructure itself along with new rural construction efforts.

Last year marked a significant turning point, with seafood, fruit and vegetables making the list of key exports. Could you talk about the agricultural sector’s export policy for 2018?

To achieve further success in 2018 and ensuing years, the agricultural sector needs to continue reorganizing production to form value chains for all products. The One Commune, One Product (OCOP) program should be promoted. At the same time, it needs to intensify the application of new technologies, expand material production areas, promote deep processing and seek new export markets.

The results achieved in 2017 laid the foundation for the agricultural sector to boost exports in 2018 and ensuing years, especially of seafood, fruit and vegetables. Shrimp and tra fish are key export products of the seafood sector. Vietnam currently has tra fish breeding ponds totaling 5,100ha. The seafood sector will not increase the breeding area but focus on building value chains. Among 143 seafood-processing facilities, 62 create products for export.

There’s much room for Vietnam to increase fruit and vegetable exports. Total value of global trade in these products amounts to US$270 billion per year, much higher compared with rice (US$36 billion). To boost exports, along with expanding cultivation areas, the fruit and vegetable sector should pay greater attention to processing. Of the total output of 22 million tonnes of vegetables, roots and fruit, only nine percent are processed.

Five to six processing plants based in six major economic zones will commence operations in 2018 and early 2019 with total capacity of one million tonnes, equivalent to the combined capacity of 142 existing plants.

What are the agricultural sector’s major tasks for 2018?

rosy forecast for agricultural sector in 2018
Processing shrimp for export

This is an important transitional year of the 2016-2020 period. Apart from favorable conditions, the agricultural sector will have to cope with challenges. Its major tasks include restructuring, building value chains, adapting to climate change, and promoting the construction of new rural areas.

So far, among the nearly 9,000 communes nationwide, 32 percent have been recognized as new rural areas. The target for 2020 is 50 percent. New rural construction efforts will focus on production promotion, environmental treatment, social security and culture.

Vietnam is one of the five countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. In 2017, it had to cope with six storms, including three force 12 storms, and four tropical low pressure spells, which caused extreme weather phenomena, including serious floods that harmed the mountainous areas in the north.

Therefore, coping with natural disasters is an important task in agricultural restructuring and new rural construction.

What are your views on the role of farmers and what message would you like to send them?

The agricultural sector’s results in 2017 were achieved thanks to contributions of the entire political system, localities, different economic sectors, and farmers. I hope that in 2018, the government, the business community and all people will make further efforts to contribute to the restructuring of the agricultural sector and the construction of new rural areas.

On behalf of the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, I would like to send my best wishes to all Vietnamese people, especially farmers and those working in the agricultural sector, on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. I wish them good health and hope they will bring their creativity into play to contribute to the development of Vietnam’s agriculture, as well as the prosperity of rural areas.

The agricultural sector is striving to achieve an annual growth rate of at least three percent in 2018 (cultivation 2.2 percent; animal husbandry three percent; seafood 5.5 percent; forestry six percent). Its export value is expected to reach about US$40 billion (cultivation products over US$21 billion; seafood about US$9 billion; forest products over US$8.5 billion; and other products US$1.5 billion). Some 37 percent of communes and 52 districts nationwide are expected to meet new rural area standards. The forest coverage rate is expected to reach 41.6 percent.

Nguyen Hanh