Vietnam's agriculture needs support from foreign partners: MARD

Vietnam needs support from international partners to cope with losses due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said 2020 was a difficult year when the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the human damage, COVID-19 also had a strong impact on all economies around the world, including Vietnam.

The pandemic is likely to continue to have an impact, breaking some raw material supply and consumption chains of agricultural, forestry and fishery products and increasing demand for those products. It also delays the negotiation and conclusion of measures to promote market opening between Vietnam and other countries, and raises non-tariff market barriers due to concerns of disease outbreaks and recurrences, Doanh said.

The requirements for the quality of goods and services and the requirements of food hygiene and safety are also increasing, he said.

In such a context, MARD strives to implement the dual goal set by the Government, focusing its efforts on implementing measures to prevent COVID-19 and achieving economic development.

Of which, the ISG 2020 Plenary Meeting is an important event for MARD to share its direction for development in the future, calling upon the international community to contribute to implementing solutions to cope with COVID-19 in the agriculture and rural development sector, Doanh said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam and International Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD), organised the ISG 2020 Plenary Meeting with the theme: "Vietnam's agriculture and rural development in the context of the COVID-19 impact: Opportunities and challenges" in Hanoi on December 11.

At the meeting, Doanh said MARD and international partners made a joint statement on cooperation for Vietnam's agricultural and rural development in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the joint statement, the ministry would work with each partner to build projects and programmes on supporting the development of the agriculture sector.

In addition, Doanh said Vietnam's agriculture will continue to restructure, utilising technology in the Industry 4.0 era, while taking advantage of foreign direct investment and creating better connections with the export terminals; empowering its position in the supply chain, increasing the value-added content and enhancing the competitiveness of Vietnamese agricultural products.

Despite extraordinary success in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus within the country, Vietnam’s economy and the agricultural sector is and will continue to be affected, said Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Vietnam Resident Representative.

In UNDP’s recent survey, 71% of respondents in the agricultural sector noted a significant reduction in their income due to COVID-19. It is vital to consider multiple risk factors to those rural communities most affected by this pandemic.

"COVID-19 and climate change can be turned into opportunities to transform the agriculture sector. This is also an unprecedented opportunity to unlock massive economic and social benefits, trigger green agriculture employment by introducing, for example, green stimulation policy support packages as part of the MARD’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan," she said.

It is important for agriculture businesses and farmers to be prepared for the multiple risks of climate extremes and COVID-19. Vietnam has a track record of introducing agricultural insurance as one of the key risk transfer mechanisms, she said. For example, the National Agriculture Insurance Pilot Programme (NAIPP) has covered over 300,000 households in 20 provinces focusing on rice, livestock, and aquaculture insurance.

UNDP is currently cooperating with MARD in further strengthening the risk-transfer schemes, expanding options for farmers, SMEs and businesses to effectively cope with future losses and shocks.

Doanh said MARD worked closely with ministries, agencies, localities and international organisations to adopt timely and effective measures to solve difficulties in production and business due to the pandemic.

As a result, farm produce exports were estimated at US$37.42 billion during the past 11 months, up 2.4% annually.

He called on the agricultural sector to take comprehensive and flexible measures to ensure food security, maintain growth and export, improve livelihoods and income of rural residents, and propel sustainable development, during which international support is needed.