|Mr. Nguyen Quoc Toan, Director of the Department of Agricultural Product Processing and Market Development (MARD).|
How do you evaluate the results in the export of agricultural products?
The export of many agricultural products of Vietnam have ranked “top” in the world. In 2017, the export turnover of agriculture, forestry and fishery reached about US$32 billion, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively it reached US$36 billion, US$40 billion and US$41 billion.
In 2021, the Prime Minister assigned the whole industry to achieve an export turnover of US$44 billion. We are proud of the achievements of the agricultural sector, but we cannot rest on our laurels.
In the “playing field” of global agricultural trade, each country and geographical region has its own advantages. In a country, there are localities, even a district, a commune, a village that has their own advantages. Sometimes the product of one village brings the brand to the whole country.
The Resolution of the 13th Party Congress determined that the development of the agricultural sector should change from thinking about agricultural production to thinking about agricultural economy. Can you tell us more about this orientation?
Facing both challenges and opportunities, including traditional and non-traditional challenges such as the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the transformation of agricultural production thinking into agri-economic thinking industry means that the agricultural industry will develop and move to a state of focus on added value, taking value as a measure. The value is the economic value of agricultural products, the value of social life, the renewal of livelihoods, care for the farmers so they can enjoy the fruits of their work.
When changing to thinking about agricultural economy, the three biggest subjects include: State management system from central to local level; Associations, industries, business communities and farmers must have the awareness of “what to grow, what to raise” to think about selling points and consumer needs.
Putting the problem of shifting to agricultural economic development means that it is necessary to pay attention to synchronous factors of awareness, consumption behavior, and overcome the asymmetry of market information. In fact, market uncertainties are entirely possible. If we only chase the quantity but ignore the market demand can lead to oversupply. Even if an epidemic or natural disaster causes congestion at some point, supply and demand will not meet.
There has been impressive export growth, Vietnam’s agricultural industry has been more in favor of quantity than quality. In your opinion, what changes should be made in the future to really change to a focus on added value as you mentioned?
Agriculture in general includes many different sub-sectors including: Cultivation, animal husbandry, forest products and fisheries. The natural attributes of agriculture show that this is a production industry that must adapt to natural disasters, enemy sabotage, weather changes, and face many challenges.
In recent years, Vietnam has ten agricultural products exported with a turnover of over US$1 billion per year; even commodities such as rice, coffee have continuously maintained such export turnover for many years.
However, the content of added value is higher, even reducing output but adding value is an issue that needs to be discussed, especially focusing on the processing stage.
Vietnam has joined the international multi-class, multi-faceted and multi-object economic integration. That requires innovation and daily improvement in the management of the agricultural economy. Subjects from state management, local authorities, business community, industry associations, especially the most important subjects are farmers. They must work together to raise awareness of the market and target direction to the production of goods. Specifically, it is necessary to clearly identify market trends and consumption trends of world consumers, and even different consumption regions.
For example, there are market groups such as the Muslim Halal food market group that are niches that have so far been underutilized. Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported to the Prime Minister to have a strategy to develop agricultural products for export to the Halal market.
In addition, I also want to emphasize that localities need to pay more attention to the role of associations, industries, and professional activities to make the most of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam has joined such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or the Vietnam-EU FTA (EVFTA). With these FTAs, Vietnamese goods have many tariff preferences but must overcome challenges of technical barriers.
Regarding the perspective of resources, I think that if agriculture is really considered the “support” of the economy, it is necessary to pay more attention to resources for agricultural development. Resources are not only economic resources but also resources to equip social infrastructure for people, especially people in the Mekong Delta provinces – the center of agricultural production or people in the midland and mountainous areas.
Thank you Sir!