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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 11/12

BIDV loans $35m to VSIP Quang Ngai; Ha Noi Stock Exchange to launch new bond products; Import duties on steel to be cut; Investors eye Vietnam wind energy projects; Seafood exporters antsy to make inroads into Russia

BIDV loans $35m to VSIP Quang Ngai

The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) gave a US$35-million loan to the Viet Nam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP)'s Quang Ngai Integrated Township and Industrial Park on Monday.

VSIP Quang Ngai is the fifth VSIP project in Viet Nam and the first of its kind in the province. The $172.3-million project spans more than 1,700ha in the Tinh Phong and Tinh Tho communes in Son Tinh District.

Under the credit contract, BIDV will provide the capital to help the investors complete their work as planned. The $35-million loan will be invested in construction and technical infrastructure in the project.

In order to attract more investors to VSIP, BIDV also issued a VND2-trillion ($93-million) lending package with an attractive interest rate for 15 years to the investors.

Since the ground-breaking ceremony in September last year, the VSIP Quang Ngai Integrated Township and Industrial Park has attracted 10 customers from six countries, with a total investment capital of nearly $2 billion.

VSIP's website says that the project's 600ha in the Dung Quat EZ will be developed in the first phase. The enterprises that rent workshops in this area will enjoy corporate income tax exemptions during the first four years and 50 per cent tax reductions in the following nine years.

The government has included the Dung Quat EZ in the list of six key EZs that will get priority in receiving investment funds. Therefore, the province's infrastructure will be improved to attract investors.

Up to now, URC Central and Liwayway of the Philippines; King Riches Footwear; Maystar Footwear; Wing Fung Shing and New Manson of Hong Kong (China); Boiler Master of Singapore; Xindadong Textiles of China; MDC Sourcing of the Republic of Korea; and the Quang Ngai Water Supply Company have invested in the project.

Can Tho agriculture fair opens doors to public

The 2014 Vietnam International Agriculture Fair has kicked off in Can Tho welcoming more than 300 exhibitors from numerous countries around the globe displaying their wares in more than 450 pavilions.

The show is being held daily from December 10 to 16, inclusive. exhibitors are showcasing products related to all aspects of fruit and vegetable farming running the gambit from the latest in modern machinery and equipment to high quality plant varieties.

There are even the latest technical innovations in food processors and household utensils on display, says Director of the Can Tho International Exhibition and Fair Centre Le Thi Kim Thu.

A series of seminars are planned that will discuss issues related to agricultural productivity and post-harvest technologies aimed at creating favourable conditions for scientists and farmers to share experiences in production,Thu says. The event offers the opportunity for farmers and agriculture related enterprises to introduce their products, seek partners, expand trade promotion and bolster export agro-fisheries products to the international market.

Deputy PM kicks off int’l construction expo in Hanoi

The construction industry has experienced steady growth over the past few years, which has greatly contributed to the nation’s movement to a more modern industrial society, says Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh.

Ninh made the comment at the opening of an international construction exposition in Hanoi on December 10 at which more than 100 exhibitors from around the globe are showcasing their goods and services in more than 200 pavilions.

Speaking at the opening, Ninh said he hoped that the exhibition would provide the impetus to further boost the application of advanced technology in Vietnam’s construction industry.

Within the four-day expo, VIETCONSTECH 2014, two international conferences on construction technology and its application have been planned.

The opening featured hundreds of construction related products divided into various groups such as Construction and Building, Building Materials, Technology Equipment, Technology, Mining, Security, Environment in Construction and Building and Services.

Price management under review

The national steering committee on price management had its first meeting yesterday in Ha Noi to review the price management and operation activities this year, and their orientation next year.

The committee said that this year, the price management and operation activities were conducted well, and had considerable effect on the macroeconomic stability, reported Government news portal chinhphu.vn.

Additionally, the government managed the supply and demand well enough to stabilise domestic market prices.

The price management was implemented along with an improving business environment, and it prevented and fought against smuggling and trade fraud.

The price of services and essential goods such as petrol, electricity, coal, healthcare services and educational services were managed step-by-step according to the market mechanism, along with State regulation.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh, head of the committee, said that price management must follow market development and be active and feasible.

The prices of essential goods had stabilised over the past months, including of money price, milk, healthcare services and educational services, while petrol prices have changed as per the global market developments, Ninh said.

Next year, Ninh said, price management would continue to follow the market rules and must be unified, from the Central level to the provincial and city levels.

He pointed out that initially, the ministries, sectors and cities/provinces should be well prepared to meet the supply and demand of goods for production and consumption during the coming New Year and Lunar New Year. They must also combat smuggling and trade fraud to ensure price stabilisation.

The committee was set up in May and its members are leaders from various ministries and offices, including finance, industry and trade and planning and investment, as well as health, education and training, and transport, besides agriculture and rural development, government offices and the State Bank of Viet Nam.

HNX to launch new bond products

Ha Noi Stock Exchange (HNX) and the State Treasury have disclosed their plans to launch new products to develop the G-bond market next year.

These intentions were revealed during the G-bond market members' conference Q4 held in Ha Noi, which attracted local and international participants. During the gathering, the members were presented the plans to achieve the addition of new products to improve the local bond market in 2015.

HNX said they expect to launch the Zero coupon bond, Strip Bond, Bond Index and Repo set. Moreover, they shared the agency's move to launch some important services, such as the implementation of a connecting system of G-bond trading with the financial company Bloomberg, employment of online transactions (E.BTS) among the G-bond members and completion of the 2014 bond index.

During the conference, experts from financial firm Nomura Group shared their experiences in developing the derivatives bond market in Japan to provide guidance to Viet Nam in its goal to build a similar market in the future.

GIZ also introduced a capital market program for Viet Nam, which will be enacted from 2015 to 2017, including a green bond market.

State Securities Commission (SSC) Deputy Chairman Nguyen Thanh Long urged key market players to cooperate with each other, as well as to share information and services to develop new products. In addition, Long directed HNX to continue implementing innovative solutions to promote the secondary market and improve liquidity.

He also advised HNX to conduct further research to diversify the types of bonds in the market. Meanwhile, SSC will work to improve the legal framework to develop the local bond market.

As of November 2014, the State Treasury opened 123 G-bond auctions via HNX and 17 bill auctions through the State Bank of Viet Nam, as well as assisted Viet Nam insurance companies to raise VND5 billion (US$234,741) worth of bonds.

After the auctions, the treasury mobilised VND229.3 trillion ($10.7 billion), which showed a 32 per cent increase compared with the value collected during the same period last year. HNX's transactions accounted for 83.3 per cent of the total amount.

HCM City lawmakers review economy

With its economy on course to expand at around 9.5 per cent this year, HCM City plans to set itself a target of 9.5-10 percent for next year.

Reviewing the current year's socio-economic situation at a four-day People's Council meeting that opened yesterday, Hua Ngoc Thuan, deputy chairman of the People's Committee, told the lawmakers in attendance that the city had achieved the growth target set last year.

It had also achieved 21 out of 28 other socio-economic targets.

Exports topped US$32 billion, a 9 percent increase over last year, while imports remained virtually unchanged at $26 billion.

In the first 10 months investment licences were issued to 332 foreign projects with total registered capital of $2.7 billion.

Thuan raised the issue of finding investors to build a mixed-use building on the "golden" land plot enclosed by Le Loi, Nguyen Hue, Nguyen Thiep, and Dong Khoi, and sought opinions on how to identify one.

Part of the city's zoning plans, the 5,160sq.m piece of land is expected to be developed at a cost of $70 million.

After getting approval from city lawmakers, the city administration will formally announce details of the project and tender.

Before the meeting wraps up on Friday, a confidence vote will be held and the result made public.

VCB chairman given new role

The governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam has appointed Nghiem Xuan Thanh, chairman of Vietcombank (VCB), to represent 40 per cent of the State's contribution to the bank.

The appointment was decided last Friday following the retirement of former VCB chairman Nguyen Hoa Binh.

Meanwhile, Pham Quang Dung, a member of VCB's managerial board and VCB general director, was appointed to represent another 30 per cent of the State's contribution to the VCB.

As a holder of a post-graduate degree in banking-finance, Thanh, 45, has 25 years of experience in the field. Before the appointment, Thanh was former deputy director of Vietinbank and VCB's general director.

Import duties on steel to be cut

The import duties on hot laminated carbon steel and hot laminated steel are likely to be cut to zero per cent to reduce input costs for the domestic subsidiary industry.

The finance ministry has been collecting ideas from relevant sectors and agencies about the reduction of import tariffs on the two steel products, which the country does not produce. If the move is approved, the duties on imported hot laminated carbon steel and hot laminated steel, which are flat rolled bars, will fall from three per cent to zero.

Deputy Chairman of the Viet Nam Steel Association, Nguyen Tien Nghi, said that from now till 2017, a number of duties on imported steel products will be reduced to zero per cent.

According to statistics from the customs office, Viet Nam imported 166,574 tonnes of hot laminated carbon steel and hot laminated steel in 2013, worth US$128 million.

Mekong farming credit increases

Credit for the agricultural sector in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region has made significant improvements, the Vietnam Economic News reported.

According to the State Bank of Viet Nam's Credit Department, by the end of September, total outstanding loans of credit institutions in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region reached nearly VND332.6 trillion (US$15.84 billion), an increase of 7.64 per cent compared to the end of last year, accounting for 8.98 per cent of the country's total loans.

By mid-2010, total national outstanding loans for the agricultural sector stood at around VND315 trillion ($15 billion) and half of the amount was provided for the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and the Southeast Viet Nam. However, by the end of September, this figure in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region increased by more than VND220 trillion ($10.48 billion).

Agro-industry an impetus for agricultural production

Promoting agro-industry is not only urgently needed to add value to products and improve farmers’ incomes, but is also an important impetus for the development of agricultural production.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat made the statement at a plenary meeting of the International Support Group (ISG) in Hanoi on December 9, which aimed to inform donors, international organisations and enterprises of the Vietnamese government’s development orientations and investment incentives for agro-industry.

Fostering agro-industry also means the creation of a favourable environment to attract investments from enterprises, especially private ones, into the agricultural sector, Phat said, adding that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has also been urgently reviewing mechanisms and policies for a better investment and business environment.

He said that the MARD encourages enterprises to invest more deeply in the sectors with high added values such as processing and commerce in the farming product value chain, and apply scientific and technological advances to quickly shift the product structure into deep processing, aiming to improve products’ competitiveness.

At the meeting, deputies recommended improving the quality of human resources meeting the demand for processing and preserving products; adjusting policies on tax and credits; enhancing management over products’ quality with clear and stable legal corridors; and renovating mechanisms and policies towards creating convenience, transparency and equality among economic sectors.

According to the Department of Processing and Trading Agricultural Forestry and Aquatic Products, agro-industry takes up a considerable proportion of Vietnam’s processing industries – about 20% of GDP. Alongside the agricultural sector’s achievements, Vietnamese farming products’ quality, added values and competitiveness remain low due to poor preserving and processing facilities and limited agro-industry scales.

Presence of Vietnamese goods limited in regional market

Many types of Vietnamese goods have faced strong competition of imported products from nations in the Southeast Asian region, while local businesses have met difficulties in broadening the presence of their products in these markets.

For the last ten years, many businesses in Ho Chi Minh City have considered Cambodia as a key export market. The city authorities have hosted several trade promotional activities to open ways for Vietnamese goods to this market.

Household appliances, chemicals and cosmetics, fertilizers, pesticide and industrial machines with good quality and suitable prices have been popular in Cambodia.

Cambodia is the only market in ASEAN where Vietnam has been able to maintain export growth and trade surplus.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade reported that Vietnam’s export value to Cambodia reached US$2.87 billion and import value hit US$496 million last year.

During a trip to Cambodia in May, Sai Gon Giai Phong reporter however found Vietnamese goods in disadvantageous condition compared to Thai, Chinese and Malaysian commodities. Local supermarkets have been full with Thai not Vietnamese goods.

Vietnam has determined to step up investment and exports to Myanmar since this market has been opened. Three years have gone by with only few Vietnamese brands being able to do so such as Dien Quang lamp and Binh Dien fertilizer.

Vice chairwoman of the HCMC Investment and Trade Promotion Center Pho Nam Phuong said that the Myanmar Government had opened their door to call for foreign investment. However distribution field has mostly undertaken by local businesses.

On the other hand, Vietnamese banks have not opened any branch in Myanmar, forcing businesses to make payment via the third bank in Singapore. Vietnamese businesses have also paid high freights to transport goods to Myanmar and faced with many complicated customs procedures.

Vietnamese goods have just begun entering Singaporean supermarkets and stores via Vietnamese Goods Fair hosted by the Singaporean leading retailer NTUC FairPrice this year. 

One of reasons for the modest presence of Vietnamese goods in ASEAN countries is that businesses have paid little heed to these markets, said an expert. ASEAN is a potential market, having the world’s third largest population and occupying 30 percent global trade. Accessing ASEAN is not as risky and difficult as approaching the EU, the US and Japan.

They have also paid insufficient attention to local market permitting many import items to overwhelm Vietnamese goods.

Surveys show that Thai goods have lured large customers at from electronic centers, supermarkets, convenient stores to markets.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam’s import turnover of vegetables and fruits reached US$309.5 million in the first seven months this year. Of these the import value from Thailand was US$106 million, accounting for 34.2 percent of the total and increasing 63 percent over the same period last year.

Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative improves business climate

The business climate in Vietnam has improved as a direct result of a Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative that has been implemented for the past 11 years says Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh.

At a conference in Hanoi on December 8 assessing the initiative, Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Hiroshi Fukada echoed Vinh’s sentiments and noted that since its launch in 2003 there has been a high correlation with increased levels of foreign direct investment.

Co-chairman of the Japan-Vietnam Economic Committee Takahashi Kyouhei in turn said the business climate has benefited from numerous reforms and a revision of tax and customs collection - which in the past had been major sources of complaints.

Those in attendance at the conference agreed that the action plan for the initiative’s next phase, its sixth, would include issues related to transport, intellectual property, supporting industry, retail, among numerous other business environment matters.

There was general agreement that the implementation of the fifth phase of the initiative was effectively implemented most notably by the successful organization of more than 40 policy dialogues.

At present, Vietnam’s business climate has been steadily improving with its legal system developing in a transparent manner in accordance with international norms. The initiative’s sixth phase will continue to propose effective cooperative methods for both sides.  

Investors eye Vietnam wind energy projects

More than 120 representatives of foreign enterprises in the renewable energy industry gathered in HCM City on December 9 to attend a wind energy seminar sponsored by the Danish embassy.

According to the General Department of Energy (GDE) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) nearly 50 wind power projects have been licensed for operation over the past three years with a design capacity of 4.876 MW.

However, there have been just three commercial wind-power projects to date, which is a modest figure compared to the country’s potential.

During the seminar, foreign investors stressed the necessity to increase more investment in this fledgling industry, noting almost all construction equipment has been imported from foreign countries and there are shortages of high-skilled labourers in the field, which has dampened enthusiasm to invest in this field in Vietnam.

At the seminar, Phu Cuong Group signed a cooperative agreement with Denmark’s Vestas group to invest in a US$2 billion wind power project in Soc Trang province with a design capacity of 800MW.

Nguyen Viet Cuong, President of Phu Cuong Group said the group would have to face a number of difficulties in co-ordinating with foreign partners.

Cuong suggested there should be more thorough information developed for foreign partners to learn about wind power opportunities in Vietnam.

HCM City sees high growth in four key industries

Ho Chi Minh City’s key industries posted a growth of 7.9% in November, the city’s Trade and Industry Department said.

The four key industries included the food processing sector with a rise of 2.6%; the rubber sector, 5.1%; the electronic sector, 9%; and the mechanical manufacturing sector, 14.8%.

In November, the city’s index of industrial production (IIP) slightly felt by 0.2% from previous month and jumped 6.4 against the same period last year.

In 11 months, the city’s IIP increased 6.8%, up from 6.1% a year ago.

According to Director of the Department Le Van Khoa, numerous enterprises have expanded their business scale, increased production capacity, and improved competitiveness with a view to meeting local people and other vicinities’ demands.

Seafood exporters antsy to make inroads into Russia

Russia has lowered its import tariff to 0.8% on agricultural products, which is much lower than the hitherto average rate of 13.2%, which provides a good opportunity for seafood businesses to become more price competitive in the market.

The lower tariffs in connection with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) in the offing will provide local seafood yet more chances to step-up exports.

Russia imports on average roughly 4.1 to 4.3 million tonnes of seafood annually, according to the Russian Seafood Directory.

However, demand for seafood products from non traditional import markets has been on the rise as a result of a ban on agricultural and seafood products from Norway, the US, Canada, which has been in effect since last August.

However, Vietnamese seafood imports by Russia have not been consistent and have fluctuated wildly. For example, they hit only US$100 million in 2013 but reached US$205 million in 2005.

Although Vietnam is among the top ten seafood exporters to the market it has accounted for only 3.6% of the market share.

To boost agricultural and seafood exports to Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) to spur negotiations to sign the FTA with the Customs Union.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has also been actively negotiating cooperative agreements on food hygiene and safety with the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.

Truong Dinh Hoe, Secretary General of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), says Russia is considered a highly lucrative market for local seafood products.

Particularly in light of the reduction of the import tariff to 0.8% and additional benefits that will result from the signing of the FTA, local businesses should get prepared to grasp the opportunity, Hoe says.

Recently, local firms have been successfully overcoming import restrictions imposed by many countries around the globe, however, the most important thing is for them to ensure they comply with food hygiene and safety standards, Hoe says.

Although Russia is a WTO member it has its own evaluation system. That’s why out of the 602 Vietnamese seafood processors who have met requirements to export products to EU, only 25 of them have been allowed to ship to the Customs Union.

The Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (FSVPS) recently conducted a fact-finding tour of Vietnam to evaluate its food hygiene and safety (FHS) controls.

As a result of their review in October 2014, they identified 41 businesses meeting requirements to export product to Russia.

Experts say to stimulate exports to Russia, local businesses will have to improve the quality of products, financial capacity and trade conditions as well as actively establishing relations with importers, supermarkets and overseas Vietnamese businesses in Russia.

In addition, they should actively take part in fairs and exhibitions and invite Russian importers to attend international seafood events and visit breeding and processing in Vietnam.

However, many local seafood exporters are getting antsy and are ready to make inroads into the Russian market and satisfy the increasing consumer demand.

Investment in Quang Ngai industrial park doubles

The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) just got a major boost from the Bank of Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), which will more than double the parks current total investment.

BIDV announced on December 8 it has signed credit agreements providing for investment of more than US$35 million in infrastructure projects at the VSIP in Quang Ngai along with additional preferential financing for investors of VND2,000 billion.

Under the agreements, BIDV has committed to supporting funds for domestic and foreign investors to timely complete their projects as well as supply start-up capital for those who want to invest in the industrial park.

VSIP Quang Ngai has so far attracted eight projects, of which two are expected to be operational later this month.

Solutions for sustainable coffee development sought

Over 200 scientists, managers and local coffee farmers gathered in Dak Lak province on December 9 to seek solutions for the sustainable replanting of old coffee trees and development of the industrial crops in the Central Highlands.

Director of the National Centre for Agriculture Promotion Phan Huy Thong said the replanting of old coffee trees is not a simple task, requiring measures to ensure the effectiveness of the work and coffee output for exports in the coming years.

Former Chairman of Dak Lak provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Van Lang highlighted the close connection between effective replanting and sustainable development, stressing the importance of seed selection, growing caring, harvesting and processing to improve the value of coffee beans.

Participants suggested solutions localities develop specific plans on coffee replanting, set up management boards at all levels to ensure the effective implementation of the plans.

They should build a database, document, conduct training courses, workshops and technology transfer to farmers, the participants said.

They also discussed solutions on the quality of coffee varieties, funding and farmers’ access to finance.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Cultivation Department, the country has a 635,000 ha of coffee with plants on 86,000 ha being more than 20 years old and on another 140,000ha, 15-20 years old.

About 1400,000 – 160,000 ha of coffee trees need to be replanted in the next five and 10 years.

The Central Highlands region, comprising Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong, Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces, and southern Binh Phuoc province need to replant about 200,000 ha of coffee by 2020.-

More Japanese businesses seek opportunities in HCM City

There is a growing tendency to explore investment opportunities in HCM City among Japanese companies, said the Nhan Dan (People) online newspaper.

So far this year, the municipal People’s Committee and local enterprises have welcomed many delegations of senior officials from Japan including head of Kansai region's Economy, Trade and Industry Department, Toshinori Kobayashi; Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa; and Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki, who came to the city to explore business cooperation opportunities.

Japanese investors are currently operating 668 projects with total registered capital of 25 billion USD, and these figures are predicted to grow in the coming time. According to a survey conducted by the Japan External Trade Promotion Organisation (JETRO), most of surveyed Japanese enterprises said they would continue investing and expanding their businesses in Vietnam as a whole, and in HCM City in particular.

Representatives of the Japanese companies also affirmed that in addition to expanding export markets, Japanese enterprises will speed up investment in supporting industries (SI) with the trend of shifting their investment flow from China to Vietnam.

In their recent market survey in HCM City , representatives of Japan ’s Saitama Prefecture also proposed some potential areas of bilateral cooperation such as cosmetics production, safe vegetables and electronics, in which Vietnam has a competitive advantage.

According to a cooperative agreement signed with Ehime Prefecture , the Ho Chi Minh City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (Hepza) has arranged 300 hectares of land in Linh Trung Processing Zone and Hiep Phuoc Industrial Zone for businesses from Ehime Prefecture , while asking relevant agencies to boost administrative procedure reform as a way to attract investments from Ehime’s companies.

The growing interest of Japanese investors in HCM City’s economy is definitely a positive sign for domestic enterprises operating in the locality, said a Hepza official, adding that it is also a reflection of the city’s improved business environment, opening up cooperative opportunities with one of the world’s leading economies.

Mekong Delta enjoys preferential loans for agriculture

Credit for the agricultural sector in the Mekong Delta region has made significant improvements, the Vietnam Economic News reported.

According to the State Bank of Vietnam’s Credit Department, by the end of September, total outstanding loans of credit institutions in the Mekong Delta region reached nearly 332.6 trillion VND, an increase of 7.64 percent compared to the end of last year, accounting for 8.98 percent of the country’s total loans.

By mid-2010, total national outstanding loans for the agricultural sector stood at around 315 trillion VND and half of the amount was provided for the Mekong Delta and the Southeast Vietnam. However, by the end of September, this figure in the Mekong Delta region increased by more than 220 trillion VND.

In the 2011-2013 period, the implementation of Governmental Decree 41/2010/ND-CP and specific agricultural credit programmes such as credit policy for livestock and aquaculture farming based on Document 1149/TTg-KTTH, support policy to reduce losses in agricultural production and lending policy for the rice sector played a key role.

By the end of last year, most credit policies were efficiently implemented. Data released by the Credit Department showed that total national outstanding loans for the agricultural sector reached nearly 672 trillion VND, a 2.3-fold increase compared to 2009, before Decree 41 took effect.

Since the beginning of this year, according to Governmental Resolution 14/NQ-CP on a pilot loan programme serving agricultural development, the State Bank of Vietnam has directed credit institutions to provide loans for many localities. To date, the programme has provided loans for six provinces with a total capital of about 2.72 trillion VND. Some large enterprises in the provinces of Dong Thap, Can Tho and An Giang have asked for loans with interest rates ranging from 7-10.5 percent per year to implement production and processing projects.

By the end of last year, interest rates had sharply dropped to a low level, equal to 50 percent of those rates in 2011. Since the beginning of this year, short-term lending interest rates for the agricultural sector have reduced to 7-8 percent per year.

Ca Mau province’s seafood output reaches record high

Vietnam’s southernmost province of Ca Mau has gained a seafood output of 490,000 tonnes this year, representing a year-on-year increase of 10.3 percent and also the highest level ever.

Of the figure, 180,000 tonnes were processed for export, bringing home 1.3 billion USD, 200 million USD more than the revenue gained from a year earlier, said Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Van Su.

These outcomes were attributable to a bumper harvest recorded in a number of farming areas like Dam Doi, Cai Nuoc, and Phu Tan as well as fewer storms which allowed nearly 1,000 offshore fishing vessels to operate more regularly.

This year’s seafood output was, however, still far below potential, Su said, noting that the offshore catch would have been higher if fishermen used modern vehicles.

Pham Thanh Tuoi, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said Ca Mau will expand profitable farming models such as a fish farming model on rice paddy fields.

It will also assist locals in building iron-covered vessels in line with the Government’s Decree 67 and overhaul the planning of farming areas, the official added.-

Dong Nai earns impressive exports in 2014

The southern province of Dong Nai is likely to enjoy 16.8 percent rise to over 12.6 billion USD in its 2014 exports, the most impressive figure over the past three years, said a provincial official.

The result will allow Dong Nai to secure the fourth position nationwide in terms of exports, said Le Van Danh, Director of the provincial Department of Industry and Trade.

The turnover rise was attributed mainly to the shipments of apparel, footwear, wood and wooden products, machineries, equipment and spare parts.

It was also resulted from increases in demand from major traditional markets, including a rise of 15.2 percent by the US , 21.8 percent by Japan, and 25 percent by China, noted Danh.

A shift in foreign orders to Vietnam and the province in particular, where the tax rate for many products is reducing to zero percent thanks to signed free trade agreements (FTAs), was named as a significant contributing factor.

Besides, administrative reforms that were drastically sped up, have facilitated exporters’ activity, he said.

According to Huynh Thanh Binh, Deputy Head of the provincial Customs Department, regular meetings held for enterprises and customs officials were helpful in promptly addressing difficulties arisen in export activity.

In 2015, Dong Nai targets 14.4 billion USD in exports, up 15 percent year on year, which will double 2010’s figure, said Danh.

He was upbeat that the goal is reachable since enterprises in apparel, footwear, wood and other areas have received orders from abroad to April, 2015.

He expected that more deals will come as a number of FTAs signed by Vietnam took effect, including those with Chile, Japan, and FTAs between ASEAN and India, the Republic of Korea and Australia.

According to the Dong Nai Department of Industry and Trade, in 2015, the province will continue strengthening trade promotion, including sending delegations to exhibitions and fairs abroad to expand outlets.

Dong Nai, together with Binh Duong, Tay Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Phuoc, Long An and Tien Giang provinces and Ho Chi Minh City, form Vietnam’s southern key economic region.

The province, Ho Chi Minh City, and Binh Duong are amongst the most attractive FDI destinations in Vietnam.

Quang Ninh among top five budget collectors

The northern province of Quang Ninh posted total budget revenue of 33 trillion VND (some 1.5 billion USD) in 2014, remaining one of the top five budget collectors in the country.

The information was heard at the 18 th session of the provincial People’s Council on December 9.

The province’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow 8.8 percent this year, the highest level among seven localities in the northern key economic region and higher than the country’s average.

Its economic structure continues to see positive changes with agro-forestry-fisheries accounting for 5.8 percent; industry-construction, 50 percent; and services, 44.2 percent.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Council Nguyen Duc Long attributed the locality’s achievements to the high determination of the whole political system, businesses and people.

Thanks to high budget incomes, Quang Ninh has invested in many key projects such as the Ha Long-Hai Phong expressway and Bac Luan II bridge while spending nearly 1 trillion VND (47.6 million USD) on social security, he said.

The province has attracted a number of large investors from Hong Kong , Taiwan and Thailand , he added.

During this session, the council decided on the province’s socio-economic development objectives and solutions as well as defence-security tasks for 2015.

Quang Ninh: Power access boosts household economy growth

More than 1,000 locals in Ngoc Vung island commune, the northern province of Quang Ninh, are excited at having daylong electricity for the first time as a project to connect island localities to the national power grid is finishing by late 2014.

The 40-square kilometer island with 3km-long untouched beaches is 45 kilometres from the mainland of Van Don district.

According to Nguyen Thi Phuong, Vice Chairwoman of the Ngoc Vung communal People’s Committee, electricity access is expected to help the residents develop household economy since they mainly engage in farming and offshore fishing, earning an average per capita income of 50 million VND (2,350 USD) per year.

Currently, Ngoc Vung locals have power for three-hour use a day, which are generated by diesel-fuelled generators and solar heating.

The 300 billion VND (14.1 million USD) project, once completed in late 2014 as planned by the Quang Ninh Power Company, the Electricity of Vietnam and the Northern Power Corporation, will bring power to 2,568 households in Ngoc Vung, Quan Lan, Ban Sen, Minh Chau and Thang Loi communes, of Van Don district.

It is part of a plan to make the Van Don special administrative-economic zone a dynamic island area of Quang Ninh, contributing to the protection of national security-defence and sovereignty in the country’s Northeastern sea.

According to Phung Kim Dai, Quang Ninh Power Company Vice Director, works on 80 percent of the project has finished despite difficulties in transportation of necessary facilities at sea, which include a giant number of 1,500 low voltage and nearly 800 98-meter-tall middle voltage poles.

In 2015-16, the rest island communes of Quang Ninh - Cai Chien and Tran – will be connected to the national power grid, he said.

The Quang Ninh Power Company has to date brought power to 99.8 percent of Quang Ninh’s households.

It is working on a 150 billion VND (7.05 million USD) project to help the rest of 0.2 percent, or 1,800 households, use power in the near future.

Tra Vinh province’s rice output hits all-time high

The Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh reaped a record high rice output with over 1.3 million tonnes this year, up 51,500 tonnes against the previous year. Of the figure, nearly 900,000 tonnes were high quality rice.

The province has nearly 236,000ha of rice fields with an average yield of 5.62 tonnes per ha, a year on year increase of 0.21 tonnes.

Improving irrigation systems and applying advanced technology and various models into cultivation are among measures taken by local authority to increase the output, said Kim Xe, Head of the Sub-department of Cultivation and Plant Protection under the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The irrigation systems in Zone C Lang The (West Highway 53) and Long Hoa – Hoa Minh Isle of Chau Thanh district have been built up whilst 492 canals with a total length of 410 km were dredged this year.

Besides, the province has been implementing production models that bring greater benefits for farmers, notably “3 Down, 3 Up” (3 Down: seeds, fertilizers and pesticides; 3 Up: productivity, quality and economic efficiency), and “1 Must, 5 Down” (1 Must: must use of certified rice seeds; 5 Down: decreases in sowed seeds, crop protection chemicals, nitrogenous fertilizer, water use and post-harvest losses).

Some 57 training courses on how to apply those models as well as techniques for System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and to produce VietGap standard rice were also organised, benefiting around 1,700 local farmers.

Meanwhile, 28 large-scale paddy fields covering a total area of 5,000ha were established by 5,000 farmer households in Cang Long, Chau Thanh, Tieu Can, Tra Cu, Cau Ngang and Cau Ke districts.

The province targets to raise an average rice yield of 5.7 tonnes per ha for a total output of around 1.3 million tonnes in 2015.

Soc Trang's export hits all-time high

The southern province of Soc Trang saw a strong growth in its 2014 export turnover, from US$480 million last year to an estimated $650 million, the highest on record.

The growth was buoyed by solid performance of the fisheries sector which brought home $610 million, up 23.1 per cent year-on-year and 41.8 per cent from its set target.

Other commodities, including rice, salted mushroom and duck eggs, fruits and machinery, raked in over $40 million.

The province set the goal of earning $700 million from exports next year, with $640 million contributed by seafood sector.

Plan aims to improve pharmaceutical industry

The Health Ministry launched a development plan for the pharmaceutical sector on Saturday in co-operation with the World Health Organisation.

Under the plan, Vietnamese companies will produce 20 per cent of materials for drug production and 80 per cent of drugs used in healthcare by 2020.

Additionally, there will be one pharmacist for every 4,000 people. All drug stores, vaccines and biological products verification centres and 50 per cent of testing centres will meet Good Pharmacy Practices standards.

Deputy Minister of Health Pham Le Tuan said at the conference that Viet Nam had integrated successfully with other countries to provide sufficient drugs for the market.

However, patients were often given the wrong prescriptions and clinical pharmacists were incompetent at providing correct usage information.

Moreover, drug producers could only produce simple generic drugs, as they spent little on research and development and operated without macroeconomic direction.

As of November, 39,000 drug retailers, 133 drug producers and 10,000 drug stores met Good Pharmacy Practices standards. Vietnamese companies were also able to produce vaccines to prevent 10 of the 12 diseases listed in its vaccination programme.

Tuan urged companies to work with suppliers to utilise Vietnamese raw materials and improve control over their origin and quality.

Customs budget revenue exceeds annual target

The General Department of Customs' budget revenue as of November 26 reached VND225.4 trillion (US$10.6 billion) or 100.6 per cent of the 2014 target.

Collections of the export-import, special consumption and environmental protection taxes reached VND84.9 trillion ($3.9 billion) while those of the value added tax reached VND140.2 trillion ($6.6 billion).

The department's total budget for this year is expected to reach VND248.5 trillion ($11.6 billion), a 12.2-per cent year-on-year increase and 110.9 per cent of the forecast for this year.

The department attributed the high revenue to the 12.8-per cent year-on-year increase in collections in the first 11 months of this year.

The Viet Nam customs department this year instructed local customs departments to tighten the collection and disbursement of the State budget and tackle difficulties in tax policies in a timely manner.

The customs department also increased the implementation of post-customs clearance and inter-sectoral co-operation to prevent and detect trade fraud.

In turn, the local departments proposed measures to prevent losses and increase management by price consultation and price and tax code assessment.

The high revenue was also attributed to the effective instruction of the Viet Nam Communist Party, National Assembly and Government and provincial implementation of plans to achieve annual national socio-economic development goals.

Plastics, rubber industry imports 80 percent materials

Vietnam has to import 80 percent of materials in plastics and rubber industry, reported the Vietnam Plastics Association and Ho Chi Minh City Department of Industry and Trade at a seminar on Thursday.

Most businesses operating in this field are of medium and small scale with inconsiderable export value accounting for only 1.2-1.5 percent of the total export turnover.

Ho Chi Minh City has about 2,000 businesses in the plastics and rubber industry occupying two thirds nationwide. They concentrate in Cho Lon area including Districts 5, 6 and 11 under the form of home based businesses, making household items and industrial plastics.

Most of the industry’s businesses use secondhand equipment and outdated technologies. They have faced with capital shortage and difficulties in credit access to renovate technologies and improve product quality amidst high cost prices.

Vietnam’s coffee products export 1.6million tons

Vietnam Coffee & Cocoa Association (Vicofa) on December 5 said that of the 2013-2014 crop, Vietnamese enterprises exported 1.6million tons of coffee, earning US$ 3.3billion, a rise of 17.2 percent in volume and 12.5 percent in value, however the selling price was lower than 3.9 percent.

Besides, the process of coffee products reached 1.2 million tons of its capacity. Eight coffee companies have total capacity of 88,700 tons per year. It is estimated to increase 164,000 tons in 2015.

In order to speed up in the domestic consumption market, Vicofa will work with Food Safety Department under Ministry of Health to build a coffee product standard set for domestic market. The coffee for using in the country accounts for 10 percent.

Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR

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