Vietnamese agriculture concerns about export prospects

Technical barriers to trade have concerned several farm products of Vietnam which are not supposed to be able to compete against foreign ones after economic integration when import tariffs return to zero percent.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, farm produce exports sharply fell in the first three months of this year while competitive advantage of Vietnamese farm produce is at an alarming rate. In the first quarter, total farm produce exports merely reached US$6.13 billion, down 13.2 percent over the same period last year. Of which, various key farm produce, including seafood, rice, coffee, and wood, have drastically dropped.
The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors said that seafood export turnover has also sunk 23 percent in the first three months of this year, the strongest drop in the past five years. Of which, shrimp whose export turnover accounts for 40 percent of seafood exports posted steepest decline of 30 percent, and pangasius exports slid 18 percent.
Meanwhile, according to the Vietnam Food Association, the country’s rice exporters have contracted to export 2 million tons of rice and have delivered 720,000 tons since the beginning of this year. However, in comparison to the previous year, it shows a decrease of 30 percent in both volume and value.
A few years ago, agriculture proudly backed the economy amid economic crisis. However, most agricultural experts said that domestic agriculture has reached its limits with many products not be able to add more value as well as increase productivity. The country has advantages on rice, seafood, pepper, and cashew but weakness on husbandry products, fruits, and other farm products.
Agriculture minister Cao Duc Phat said that from now to 2018, common trend of countries in the ASEAN is to send import tariffs of agricultural products to zero percent. Tariff will still be imposed on a few farm products, but not high. Accordingly, farm produce will be imported and exported among the countries easily. It raises concerns about how to improve competitiveness for Vietnamese farm produce or the domestic market will be dominated by foreign ones.
Earlier, the government was able to protect domestic industries by import tariffs. However, once import tariffs are removed, the only measure that the government can use is technical barriers which include quarantine regulations and food safety standards.
However, Mr. Phat emphasized that technical barriers have to comply with international regulations and standards and scientific ground. In addition, domestic agriculture industry must improve competitive ability for local farm products in order to attract customers.
He revealed that next week, the Ministry will have a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to implement measures to promote and support farm produce exporters.
The ministry also ordered relevant departments to carry out solutions and resolve obstacles for businesses who meet difficulties in procedure. Before June 30, all HS codes of agriculture industry will be announced and the government will cut 50 percent of procedures of veterinary quarantine, plant protection, and food safety, compared to current procedures.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on April 9 held an online meeting with 63 provinces in Ha Noi City to discuss on urgent measures to promote competitiveness of Vietnamese farm produce amid regional and international economic integration.

By Phuc Hau – Translated by Thuy Doan

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