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Thursday, 22 March 2018 10:01
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Development of hi-tech agriculture linked to the agricultural restructuring in Vietnam: An institutional perspective

(LLCT) - Agricultural sector plays an essential role in ensuring the political and socio-economic stability of Vietnam. Restructuring the agricultural sector is vital to develop the national agriculture into a large-scale, modern and high-value commodity one. On the basis of assessing the role of hi-tech agriculture, the article recommends several directions and institution to develop hi-tech agriculture attached to agricultural restructuring.

Key worlds: Agricultural sector, hi-tech agriculture, institution, agricultural restructuring.

1. Restructuring the agricultural sector is vital to develop the national agriculture into a large-scale, modern and high-value commodity one

After 30 years of renovation, particularly since 1989, the national agriculture has made outstanding steps forward. However, in general, the renewal of the agricultural sector has not been equivalent to the advantages on natural ecological conditions, on the workforce and on the opportunities created by the scientific and technological revolution and the knowledge-based economy. Overall, the national agriculture is backward with fragmented production; the quality and value of agricultural products are low; particularly, they have not met the uniform requirement for exports. The motivation for agricultural development according to the current structure has reached its limit; the ability to cope with disasters caused by climate change is limited. These impediments have led to a decline in the growth of agriculture. To overcome these obstacles which currently hinder the agriculture’s sustainable development, it is critical to restructure the agriculture and make it more compatible with the growing needs.

Major solutions to restructuring the agriculture into a large-scale, modern and high-value commodity agriculture are as follows:

- To build a legal corridor, increase the efficiency of management and implementaction of the institution of restricting the agricultural sector in line with the advantages of each locality and region.

- The State’s main role is creating a favourable environment for the operation of economic sectors; supporting studies on development, scientific and technology transfer; developing the market and infrastructure, and providing information and services.

- The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Planning and Investment take charge and actively coordinate with the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as other relevant ministries, sectors and localities in elaborating on strategies for developing agricultural products. These groups are responsible for planning infrastructural construction for the development of agricultural production based on comparative advantages of each ecological area at the national and local levels in order to ensure the adaption to the climate change and the requirements of the increasingly extensive international integration.

- The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development leads the collaboration with relevant ministries and branches to support localities in each ecological area. This in turn will help them formulate strategies for key products of each agricultural territory in order to adapt to climate change and abnormal weather conditions effectively.

- Regulate clearly and implement properly the role and responsibility of each stakeholder in restructuring the agricultural sector.

Restructuring the agricultural sector cannot be a self-serving goal of any sole stakeholder. Restructuring agriculture successfully requires participation of the entire political system and the whole population. The stakeholders that are playing the most essential and decisive role are the State, farmers, entrepreneurs, financiers and bankers, and scientists. The State, particularly the Government, is responsible for being the leader in reconstruction and they play the role of “conductors”, however there is involvement from the head of ministries, branches and localities. Farmers perform the role of “singers”; Entrepreneurs, financiers and bankers and scientists perform the role of “musicians”. With the good performance of each stakeholder in their right position, the whole “orchestra” of restructuring the agricultural sector will be successful. 

2. Hi-tech agriculture and its role in restructuring the agricultural sector

Hi-tech agriculture has the following distinctive features:

- The agriculture shall apply advanced scientific and technological achievements such as biotechnology, information technology, automation technology, new material technology, new energy technology, environmental technology to improve efficiency. Creating a breakthrough in the yield and quality of agricultural produce, in order to meet the increasing demand of domestic and foreign consumers, is also a distinctive feature.

- To develop hi-tech agriculture, it is necessary to do the followings:

+ Demand a large investment capital

+ Utilize knowledge. For example: the application of biotechnology requires the application of maths, informatics, agronomy, botany, zoology, microbiology, genetics, and molecular biology, etc.

+ Build new-style agricultural factories, normally focusing on creating new breeds by application of genetics and new techniques of breeding.

+ Form the market which mainly concentrates on big enterprises with hi-tech applications and large investments.

+ Build a fully automatic and strictly controlled process of raising livestock and poultry.

+ Open up new agricultural branches focusing on taking advantage of potential  resources. For example, exploit the ocean for the development of fishing, ocean forestry, etc.

The key tasks of hi-tech agricultural development are as follows:

-Application of high technology in creating materials, machines and equipment suitable for hi-tech agricultural production.

-Application of high technology in creating and breeding high - productivity plants and livestock that can be adaptable to changes of natural conditions and climate.

-Application of high technology in cultivation and animal husbandry to create high productivity, quality and efficiency.

-Application of high technology in the prevention of pests and diseases on plants and animals.

-Application of high technology in harvesting and preserving agricultural products for productivity, quality and efficiency.

-Application of high technology in processing, packaging, market making and distributing of agricultural products.

-Application of high technology in production management, branding and online marketing.

With the above-mentioned characteristics, hi-tech agriculture is both the goal and driving force for restructuring the agriculture.

Hi-tech agriculture creates competitiveness, pushes and promotes spreading influences and connects defragmented and small-scale agricultural producers to participate in agricultural products chains with high added values in the restructuring of the agriculture.

Hi-tech agriculture creates high productivity and quality of agricultural products. The production linkages attract the participation of partners supplying materials, seeds and livestock breeds; processing manufacturers; transporters, exporters and distributors, etc. in order to supply inputs for agricultural production. From there the branding of Vietnamese agricultural products is built and geographical indications and collective labels of agricultural products is utilized.

3. Orientation and institution to develop hi-tech agriculture attached to agricultural restructuring.

Currently, the national agriculture has formed ecological territoriesin which  different regions have different advantages. Therefore, to promote their roles in restructuring the agricultural sector, it is necessary to develop hi-tech agriculture according to groups of products. These products can help to exploit and maximize the potential of each ecological region and adapt to extreme climate change, in order to increase the net income per unit of cultivation area and improve the people’s livelihoods.

- The Red River Delta and some Northern midland and mountainous areas should concentrate on rice cultivation in areas suitable for hi-tech rice production in the value chain. They should expand the production area with high technology for such agricultural products as vegetables, bulbs, fruits of the market demand, particularly cabbage, leek and onion for exporting to the Russian Federation, the Far East and North East Asia.

- The Northeast and Northwest mountainous provinces, where forest accounts for a huge area, play an extremely important role in ensuring security, defence, underground water reserve and the prevention of flood. In the region, there is a large number of forest products, including valuable medicinal plants such as lima, cloves, iron-wood, Vietnam Hinoki, and medicinal plants such as cinnamon, anise, amomum, black cardamom, etc. Therefore, it is important to study high technology in order to protect the forest resource, grow valuable medicinal plants for export, and create high-value medicines for domestic and international markets. The benefit gained from the sale of forest products and medicinal plants is used to improve the people’s lives in the region. Presently, there is a problem with “shifting cultivation;” advancements in technology are needed to stop the process of slash-and-burn to cultivate corn, rice, sweet potato and cassava. Further, converting the cultivation land of low-yielding rice into high-yielding breeds of maize and soybean will provide materials for organic husbandry for domestic and foreign markets.

- The Central Highlands and the Eastern part of the South are ecological territories suitable for developing coffee, rubber and pepper trees, however, over-development is a big issue in these areas. Nutrients from the soil are exhausted due to an abundance of harvests. However, the afforestation cannot only focus on the development of rubber plantations. Many scientists disclaim rubber plantation’s capability of retaining water. To retain water resources, it is necessary to grow tropical forests with diversified types of trees. Thus, in restructuring crops in the Central Highlands and the South East, we must choose coffee, rubber, pepper and some other types of trees that are suitable with the soil, climate and water resources available. At the same time, particular attention must be paid to the development of valuable medicinal plants of the Central Highlands and the Eastern part of the South such as Vietnamese Ngoc Linh ginseng, Codonopsis javanica, ashweed, Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis and Vegetable caterpillar - a rare valuable medicinal material that has recently been developed successfully. These are special medicines with very high added value, which cannot be grown on a mass scale. Consequently, it is necessary to make adequate investments in order to develop valuable agro-products.

- The Central Coastal region: the restructuring of the agriculture must specially take hi-tech agriculture as the nucleus in the selection of plant seeds and livestock breeds that are adaptable to the hash natural conditions of the region. For example, Ninh Thuan province has identified the structure of 5 plants and 3 animals. Some other provinces in the region such as Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Binh Thuan, etc have attached importance to aquaculture plants and animals that can endure drought and having high productivity, quality and added values.

- The Western part of the South has the most advantages in terms of climate and soil for agricultural development across the country. However, the income of the majority of farmers is still low and their lives are full of turmoil. Therefore, the restructuring of the agricultural sector in the region must be focused on high technology - by cultivating two rice crops per year and selecting salinity-tolerant rice varieties with higher yielding, the current rice cultivation industry will become more efficient and profitable. This is to ensure the rice yielding is as high as or higher than the current one. At the same time, the area of#rice cultivation should be reduced to be converted into areas for raising shrimps, fish and crabs, etc. or for growing high-yielding maize or fruit trees having higher added value than rice. One kilogram of shrimp is worth dozens of times more than the same amount of rice. Therefore, many provinces in the region have followed this direction. Bac Lieu province is raising shrimp with hi-technology and using half of the province’s agricultural land to raise shrimp, creating 150,000 tons of shrimps per year, resulting in huge revenue.

On the other hand, the output of paddy and rice produced by these provinces should be supplied under long-term economic contracts for people in the North East, North West and Central Highlands provinces where there is no advantage in rice production. In turn, these provinces can buy other agro-forestry products such as corn, soybean, coffee, medicinal plants, etc. used as ingredients for the development of processing agriculture. Additionally, rice should be used as raw materials for processing essential oils and cosmetics to increase the added value of rice.

To develop hi-tech agriculture associated with agricultural restructuring, it is necessary to do the followings:

First, the developmental State must establish a favourable environment for promoting all economic components to develop hi-tech agriculture in the restructuring of the agricultural sector.

- As “the conductor”, the State must create a favourable environment for the development of hi-tech agriculture in restructuring the agricultural sector, from establishing the legal corridor and formulating strategies, plans and master plan for sustainable agricultural development along the national ecological territorial areas, taking the development of hi-tech agriculture as the nuclear. At the same time, disseminate and popularize the agriculture sector in order to make concerned stakeholders clearly aware of the legal framework, policies and fundamental, essential contents of the strategy, and the planning and the agricultural development plan for efective implementation.

-  The State must make adequate investments in studies centred around developing modern scientific and technological achievements. These achievements should be seen in all stages of hi-tech agricultural production and in the restructuring of the agriculture, advancing towards establishing a hi-tech agriculture instead of some current hi-tech industrial parks.

- The State should use a wide variety of methods to mobilize investment capital, especially public-private partnerships (PPP) in order to multiply the investment capitals for development. It is our hope that the State can shift investment from the central and local limited budgets to investing in the construction of essential infrastructure system and key nuclear urban areas in each agro-ecological zone. Particularly, anti-wave and anti-seismic and inland irrigation works should be focused to meet the demands of the hi-tech agricultural development.

- The State should promote the synchronized, consistent and strict implementation of sanctions and supervise the compliance of relevant subjects, especially head of relevant agencies. The State should also strictly punish organizations and individuals violating laws, policies, strategies, plans on hi-tech agricultural development.

- The State should implement laws and policies that promote the accumulation and to boost concentration of land to create many large fields for hi-tech agricultural development, concentrated commodity production in medium and large scale according to GAP standards. At the same time, entrepreneurs should be encouraged to set up enterprises to consume and process agricultural products with high technology that ensures food hygiene and safety according to international standards, meeting the increasingly high requirements of domestic and foreign consumers.

Second, the State should have investment policies and assign relevant ministries and sectors to be responsible for close coordination to create a contingent of professional farmers and businessmen together with other essential conditions to meet the demands of developing hi-tech agriculture, in restructuring the agricultural sectors. Specific details are as follows:

- The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development must take charge and coordinate with the Ministry of Education and Training, General Department of Vocational Training and Vietnam Peasants Association to organize training and foster activities on hi-tech agricultural development skills along ecological territories for farmers, especially rural youth to create an increasingly large contingent of professional farmers and businessmen with hi-tech agricultural development skills.

- The Ministry of Science and Technology should mobilize scientists and promote studies on scientific and technological development. It should facilitate the application and transfer of technological advances from such developed countries as Japan and Israel to develop the high-tech agriculture. Additionally, extra attention should be paid to the support and expansion of farmers’ inventions; typical examples of hi-tech agricultural start-ups should be encouraged and supported.

- The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should continue studies in order to provide a well-grounded forecast of climate change trends and its implications; they should take charge and closely coordinate with localities and relevant sectors in examining soil and climate, inventorying land fund and evaluating water resources, etc.

- The Ministry of Industry and Trade plays a very important role in developing hi-tech agriculture and should coordinate with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to promote hi-tech agricultural development in restructuring our agricultural sector. In order to restructure the agriculture, the development of hi-tech agriculture must be the nuclear. Each type of agro-product produced by hi-tech agriculture in each ecological territory must be managed along the value chain. To do so, the two important stakeholders, Bankers and Entrepreneurs, must be linked together. Entrepreneurs play a key role in organizing the commodity value chain. Entrepreneurs must ensure the supply of plant seeds, livestock breeds and other agricultural materials for farmers in a correct, sufficient and timely manner. At the same time, farmers must be guided thoroughly to implement the production process under Viet GAP standard to guarantee food hygiene and safety. Entrepreneurs must also build the brands for agro-products at domestic and foreign markets.

- The Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance and the State Bank should pay attention to encouraging the promotion of hi-tech agricultural development in the restructuring of the agriculture.

+The Ministry of Planning and Investment should take charge and coordinate with the Ministry of Finance and the State Bank in order to make target programs and mechanisms for supporting the development of hi-tech agricultural enterprises. Currently, there are roughly 40,000 enterprises in the rural areas, but only 1,500 of these enterprises in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture are doing well. The rest is facing many difficulties, especially lack of capital and low competitive capacity. By February 2017, there had been only 25 projects on hi-tech application with a total investment capital of VND 21,000 billion throughout the country.

+ The Ministry of Finance should have preferential policies related to the development of hi-tech agriculture, especially tax policies, customs procedures and supporting policies for start-ups.

+ The State Bank of Vietnam should have a preferential loan policy for hi-tech agricultural development, especially a loan policy for start-up entrepreneurs in the field of processing and consuming agricultural products. In the short term, it is necessary to provide loans to the right beneficiaries. The loans are taken from the VND 100,000 billion for the development of hi-tech agricultural announced by the Government.

Prof., Dr. Hoang Ngoc Hoa

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