Friday, September 08, 2006

Vietnam: cashew exporters move beyond subsidies

Agricultural exporters are optimistic about weathering the upcoming elimination of subsidies, a move required for Viet Nam to accede to the World Trade Organisation. Cashew exporters, for instance, are not heavily dependent on agricultural subsidies, said Vietnam Cashew Association general secretary Nguyen Van Lang.
The cashew sector has only received VND600 million (US$37,760) from the Governmant this year to fund trade promotion, Lang said. Vietnam Food Association general secretary Nguyen Thi Nguyet concurred, saying that subsidies aimed at stabilising the prices of agricultural produce were removed many years ago.
All that remained were incentive payments aimed at encouraging enterprises to strengthen trade, and these would be discontinued by the Ministry of Trade by the end of this year, she said. "I think we shouldn’t be too worried about the elimination of agricultural export subsidies because they were so small," said Pham Chi Lan, former vice chairwoman of Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).
Lan argued that, to lift the competitiveness of agricultural products, the Government needed to invest further in improving the quality of agricultural products and in carefully researching export markets about which the country’s enterprises lack needed information. It was also necessary to restructure ineffective State-owned companies, she added.
The State’s supportive policies must comply with WTO regulations, and could include investment in agricultural and rural infrastructure which includes roads, electricity, and irrigation, applying high technology, and training workers, said Doan Ngoc Bong, VCCI deputy chairman.
The Plant Protection Department, for instance, has co-operated with the An Giang Plant Protection Joint Stock Co to train farmers of 22 provinces in the nation’s southern region to produce chemical-free vegetables in compliance with the standards of Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).
The Vietnam Farmers Association expects to organise many activities to help farmers enhance competitiveness, such as the Viet Nam Agricultural Products Fair known as Trau Vang Dat Viet (Viet Nam Golden Buffallo) to be held in October.
"The association is trying to support farmers in production and business skills in order to increase their competitiveness as Vietnam enters the WTO," said association chairman Vu Ngoc Ky.

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