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Agricultural and Rural Areas: Ready for International Integration
05 | 06 | 2007
After more than a decade of negotiations, Vietnam became a 150th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 11, 2007, a milestone in the country’s development. This special event is expected to bring the country many opportunities and challenges.

The Mekong Delta is in the later part of Mekong River's basin covering a total natural area of 3.96 million hectares (five percent of the basin's area). The region consists of 13 provinces and municipalities of Long An, Tien Giang, Dong Thap, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Can Tho City, Soc Trang, Ben Tre, An Giang, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu, and Ca Mau. The region's total area makes up 12 percent of Vietnam's total area while its population (nearly 16.2 million people in 1995) accounts for 22 percent of the country's total.

Progress in development

Local economic structure has improved significantly in recent years. Many locations have become 'shining points' in agricultural production. The land for agriculture has been increasingly expanded through reclamation. The crop and animal structure has geared towards commodity-based production to increase the business value. In recent years, thousand hectares of deserted and salt-marsh land in Long Xuyen Economic Quadruple have turned into major areas for agricultural production and fish farming. Statistics show that the region has shifted 300,000ha of less effective rice fields into raising fish and planting cereals. Particularly, Soc Trang shifted 70,000ha of rice fields into raising fish under several models with an average income of VND40-50 million per hectare per year. Ca Mau turned 93,526ha of cultivated areas into aquacultural areas. Can Tho made strenuous efforts to form specialized agricultural areas like high-yielding areas, specialty fruit areas and aquacultural areas.

The farm model has been developing vigorously also. Aquacultural farms account for 40 percent of total farms in the region. Many farms report business value exceeding VND100 million per hectare. The face of rural areas and people's standards of living has been significantly improved. However, per capita average incomes are about VND12 million per year that is quite low compared to its real potential. In the region there are about 560,000ha of water surface areas for aquacultural development; that is expected to reach 645,000ha by 2010. Fruit trees are grown over 287,000ha that is expected to reach 340,000ha by 2010. To achieve these goals, the region needs intensive investment into developing local irrigation system, improving crop seeds and animal breeds, and takes strong actions to apply science and technology progress into production.

Alongside objective factors like flood consequences and vast salt-marsh areas, some other factors have cast bad impacts on production. Local infrastructure has been developed at a snail's pace. The Government's support projects and programs have only reached communes in the past years. The standards of living of people (particularly those in rural and remote areas) are rather low. Presently, only 85 percent of communes and 65 percent of hamlets are accessible by cars. Only 52 percent of communes are accessible to safe water. Local irrigation system can provide water to only 80 percent of total land for agricultural production. Poor and backward infrastructure has cast bad impacts on agricultural production, and is a barrier to attract investors. The region has thus far attracted 215 foreign investment projects with a total registered capital of US$1.5 billion, three percent of the country's total.

Efforts for economic globalization

To survive tough conditions alongside economic globalization, local farmers must follow suitable agricultural production models. There must be close cooperation between farmers-scientists-businesses to increase the business value. More importantly, the products must have strong brands that are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets.

The Party and the State should present suitable policies to support the region's development. Businesses consuming farmers' agricultural and forest products must pay due attention to developing product brands. Businesses must seek the Party and the State support to benefit farmers and take initiatives to increase sales and enlarge markets. For their parts, farmers should improve their management expertise, apply science and technology progress into production and select suitable businesses for cooperation and development.

By Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Vietnam Economic News Online
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