Most exports saw an increase but their total revenues suffered losses due to falling prices caused by the current global financial crisis, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reported.
The ministry’s figures show that coffee exports rose by 37 percent in volume but declined by 0.4 percent in value, just reaching US$1 billion, while earnings from pepper exports dropped by more than 7 percent despite a 41-percent rise in volume.
Forestry and seafood product exports also declined during the same period, but turnovers hit US$1 billion and 1.36 billion, up 17 percent and 10 percent respectively year on year.
Rice recorded the highest and steadiest growth, earning US$1.5 billion between January and May, an annualized increase of 17 percent.
The Philippines remains the largest importer of Vietnamese rice, accounting for 46.5 percent of the country’s total revenues. It is followed by Malaysia (10 percent) and Iraq (6 percent).
Tea was also another bright spot in the nation’s export picture as it earned US$50 million in revenue at a growth rate of 13.4 percent.
Taking these challenges into consideration, the ministry has adjusted its yearly target for agro-forestry and seafood exports to the level of US$12.5 billion, or 3.7 billion US$ lower than last year’s figure.
Loss of farmland, climate change threaten food supply
Vietnam’s population is on the rise while rice cultivating areas and output are continually decreasing, officials and experts said at a seminar on food security held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.
Representatives of the Ministry’s Cultivation Department estimated this year’s rice cultivation area would be 7.2 million hectares, 200,000 hectares less than in 2008.
Experts from the Hanoi University of Agriculture said around 500,000 hectares of farmland had been taken for urban and industrial zoning between 2000 and 2007.
An earlier survey of 16 cities and provinces found that 89 percent of land reclaimed to build housing, industrial parks and infrastructure was originally farmland, mostly rich rice paddies.
According to figures from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, farmland shrinkage has caused a yearly shortfall in rice output of 400,000-500,000 tons and affected the lives of at least 100,000 farming families.
In a briefing held by the agricultural ministry in Hanoi, experts said Vietnam was one of the countries most affected by global climate change.
Figures showed that if the sea level rose one meter, Vietnam would lose 5 percent of its land and 7 percent of its agricultural output.
Experts said the most heavily-hit areas would be Vietnam’s rice baskets – the Mekong Delta in the South and the Red River Delta in the North.
They said 1.5-two million hectares of paddy land in the Mekong Delta and 0.3-0.5 million hectares in the Red River Delta would be unusable if the sea level rose one meter.
Researchers estimated that rice demand would jump to 53.2 million tons in 2020 from 47 million tons in 2010.
Speakers at the Can Tho seminar said authorities should implement solutions to help farmers make better use of their land. The suggestions included increasing agricultural subsidies, setting up insurance policies for farmers and building storage depots for rice and other produce.
The ministry in Hanoi also announced a program to cope with climate change.
The ministry said that the program aimed to build national standards for planning and constructing agricultural infrastructure able to deal with the effects of climate change.
Source: TN, VNAVietnam estimates May inflation tumbles to 5-yr lowPublished: 24 May 2009 17:07:46 PST
HANOI, May 22 - Consumer prices in Vietnam rose an estimated 5.58 percent year-on-year in May, the second month in a row of single-digit inflation and the lowest level since March 2004, the government said on Friday.
Food prices, a major component of the index, dropped 4.7 percent this month after surging 16.88 percent in April and nearly 24 percent in March from a year before.
Traders and exporters had predicted a slump in food prices partly, they said, because of a food association curb on rice exports in February. They argued that buyers had turned away because of the restriction, and prices remained depressed even after exports resumed.
May prices edged up an estimated 0.44 percent from April after rising 0.35 percent last month from March, the General Statistics Office's monthly report showed.
(For a breakdown, please click on)
Last year, Vietnam battled with soaring inflation that peaked in August at nearly 30 percent. "With base effects remaining favourable on account of high commodity prices last year, headline inflation could easily flip into the red," said economist Prakriti Sofat of HSBC in Singapore.
In an indication that the central bank was still focused on spurring growth, it announced on Friday that it planned to keep its benchmark interest rates steady in June after slashing them in half between October last year and February.
The cost of transport and post fell 5.13 percent compared with May last year, while construction materials and housing rose 0.7 percent. March's fall in transport related costs of about 5 percent was the first drop since June 2004. It also fell in April.
Before April, annual monthly inflation had been in the double digits since November 2007. Prices skyrocketed in late 2007 and the first half of last year as the fast-accelerating economy nearly went off the rails, but the government took aggressive steps to curb money supply to subdue inflation.