European media hails trade deal between Vietnam and EAEU

The free trade agreement (FTA) signed between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) marks Vietnam’s deepened integration into the international market, the Euro Presse Image highlighted on June 1.

The FTA is the first deal the EAEU, including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, has inked with a third side, according to the Euro Presse Image.

The trade deal will help the EAEU expand trade and investment ties with Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, the article cited Viktor Khristenko, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasia Economic Commission.

Meanwhile, Vietnam, an ASEAN member, will serve as a bridge linking the EAEU and the ASEAN, assisting the union in extending its affiliation with the ASEAN Community, a 600 million-strong market with a GDP of 2.5 trillion USD.

In return, Vietnam will be able to access the 175 million-resident market with a GDP of 1.5 trillion USD.

Two-way trade is forecast to expand 18-20 percent each year to 10-12 billion USD in 2020, from 4 billion USD in 2014.

The inked FTA covers programmes across goods trading, origin principles, investment, intellectual property, legality and institutions, among others.

Speaking to the media after the signing ceremony, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the free trade deal is a part of the EAEU’s strategy for cooperation with the Asia- Pacific region.

Vietnam is finalising free trade negotiations with a number of countries including the US, Japan, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

Turkey probes tax evasion of plywood imports from Vietnam

Turkey is investigating a possible avoidance of anti-dumping tax of plywood imported from Vietnam and Bulgaria since 2010, according to the Vietnam Competition Authority (VCA).

VCA cited an announcement of Turkey’s General Directorate of Imports as saying that the investigation was initiated last Wednesday to find out if plywood is shipped from China to Vietnam and Bulgaria for export to Turkey to avoid the plywood anti-dumping tariff that Turkey is imposing on China.

According to VCA, Turkey imposed the anti-dumping tax of US$240 per cubic meter of plywood imported from China in 2006 and then extended the anti-dumping duty period after a five-year review.

According to the Turkish Ministry of Economy, imports of plywood from Vietnam increased sharply to 24,065 cubic meters last year from only 3,250 cubic meters before 2010 and 10,052 cubic meters in 2013. Vietnam accounted for 2% of Turkey’s plywood imports in 2010 but the proportion surged to 8% last year, making Vietnam the fourth biggest plywood exporter of Turkey after Russia, Ukraine and Brazil.

Many export products of Vietnam have been investigated for suspected tax evasion in some markets like the U.S. and EU. One of the reasons is that the export volumes of these products soared after anti-dumping taxes were slapped on Chinese products of the same categories.

This is not the first time Turkey has probed Vietnamese goods.

Turkey announced its anti-dumping investigation into polyester fibers imported from some countries, including Vietnam late last month. Last December, the country launched probes into tax evasion of granite and cold rolled stainless steel welded tubes imported from Vietnam.

Agribank, Vinatech support agricultural firms

Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) and Vietnam Technology Investment and Development Joint Stock Co. (Vinatech) have inked a cooperation deal to support enterprises in the agricultural sector.

According to a statement released by the lender, Agribank will provide payment and banking services for Vinatech and its agents in the country. The lender will also arrange credit for Vinatech and for its customers to buy fertilizer distributed by the company.

Meanwhile, Vinatech and its agents and customers will use Agribank services such as deposit, money collection, wage payment and e-banking. Vinatech will also prioritize using insurance services of Agriculture Bank Insurance Joint Stock Corporation (ABIC).

Agribank is the only commercial bank mandated by the central bank to support a coffee replanting program in the Central Highlands. As of April 30, Agribank had put its total outstanding loans for the coffee industry at over VND12.5 trillion, 40% of the total in the region.

From now to 2020, the bank will set aside around VND10 trillion in medium and long-term loans for coffee replanting enterprises with interest rates two percentage points per annum lower than normal levels.

U.S. firms eye stronger investment in Vietnam

U.S. firms are keen to make more investments in Vietnam, said Charles Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs under the U.S. Department of State.

Speaking at a media briefing in HCMC last Friday, Rivkin said it was unclear when the U.S. would become the No.1 foreign investor here in the country but many American companies showed their keen interest in the local market.

He met branches of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in over 30 cities since he took up the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, said Rivkin, who paid his first visit to Vietnam since taking office in February last year.

He said the enthusiasm of Amcham chapters in Hanoi and HCMC is far greater than the other cities. They have made investments in Vietnam and now want to expand as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is expected to be finalized soon and Vietnam has a young, hardworking labor force, Rivkin said.

He noted business opportunities in the Vietnamese market abound but U.S. investors want three key things in a market: transparency, predictability and legal compliance.

These are reflected in the TPP, so when Vietnam signs this trade pact, the country’s business environment will be attractive to investors from the U.S. and other nations.  

“The expectation that the TPP will be signed soon created a wave of investments in Vietnam. Let’s imagine what would happen when the TPP is concluded. If I wanted to invest in a nation, I would choose one among TPP member countries as the TPP involves the highest standards and I believe my investment is protected,” he said, adding that apart from economic benefits, the TPP would form a strategic alliance and bring TPP member nations closer together.

He said TPP negotiations made significant progress and are going to conclude. There have appeared difficulties in the negotiation process but there is a roadmap for the member countries to deal with these difficulties. In addition, the U.S. can wrap up negotiations over the TPP agreement soon if the Congress approves the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry want to complete TPP negotiations within their office terms, he said, and the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) was approved at the Senate with an overwhelming vote, which indicates U.S. citizens share a same voice on the trade issue.

America hopes when the TPA is approved, negotiations over the TPP can be finalized earlier, perhaps this year, Rivkin said.

Asked about regulations for labor and the establishment of independent labor unions within the TPP agreement framework on which the U.S. and Vietnam have differences, Rivkin said the TPP involved high standards and was ambitious. This trade agreement has a chapter about the labor issue and TPP member countries have to comply with regulations on labor in line with international law, he noted.

He said the labor program will be appropriate to regulations of international labor organizations such as the minimum wage, no child labor and the establishment of labor unions and that when Vietnam strikes the deal, the U.S. and Vietnam will translate these things into reality.

Factory pollution kills livestock

Livestock is dying and the lives of many people in Gio Quang Commune, Quang Tri Province, are at risk because of pollution from a fish meal processing factory in Quang Ngang Industrial Park.

Locals blame the Hong Duc Vuong Fish Meal Processing Factory.

"Since the factory went into operation, our lives got worse," said Le Van Tien, of Truc Lam Village. "I don't know what their waste treatment is like, but waste water is often poured into the environment and pollute the water supply. The land is also polluted and we can't plant crops anymore,"

Locals endure a constant stink from processing activities at the factory.

"We use masks whenever we have to go out, and the waste water makes people itch and it's ideal environment for fungus and bacteria," Tien said.

A lot of livestock died from drinking the polluted water. Locals can no longer use wells.

"My well water was very clear before, but it turned a yellowish colour and has scum on the surface, so we have to buy clean water for daily use," said Phan Thi Hong, of Gio Quang Commune.

"My family has a rice field, but the recent crop yield was so low there was barely anything to harvest," Hong said.

Le Van Thong, chairman of Gio Quang Commune, said that since the factory began operations in May last year, pollution became a problem and has got worse since February when the factory increased production.

Commune authorities reported the problem, but it has yet to be resolved.

"We don't have the authority to deal with it," Thong said. "The factory's operation is managed by provincial authorities."

Inspectors from the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the management board of the industrial park found several instances of regulatory wrongdoing at the factory, and that its treatment system was inadequate.

The factory was asked to halt operations until the problems were addressed, but locals say it has ignored the request and is discharging waste water at night in an attempt to avoid detection.

Tran Van Hoa, deputy head of the Quang Tri industrial parks management board, said new tests needed to be conducted on local water supplies before any further action can be taken.

Police raid premises of illegal gold trading firm

Hai Phong Police, working with the public security ministry's hi-tech crime prevention department, raided BBG financial group's office on Tran Phu Road to look for evidence of illegal trading activities.

The police seized several documents related to illegal gold trading in the cities of Hai Phong, Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang.

Earlier, the investigation agency quickly arrested the company's Chairman of the management board and General Director Le Minh Quang.

The BBG group reportedly operates an underground gold trading floor that has many branches in cities and provinces across the country.

Police say BBG group was established in 2010 in Da Nang City. Since then, the group has expanded rapidly and has 19 branches in provinces and cities with 600 employees.

It operates like a virtual trading floor for gold, currency and precious metals and does consultancy and gives credit, attracting hundreds of traders who use virtual points that are paid for with real money.

BBG offered several attractive incentives such as keeping gold with a monthly interest rate of 1.8 to 11.5 per cent and higher interest rates, depending on each term of sending.

The group managed to collect VND600 billion (US$27.7 million).

At the BBG branch in Hai Phong City particularly, the police identified nearly 250 investors who participated on the virtual gold trading floor with nearly VND100 billion ($4.6 million).

To attract traders, BBG was willing to give virtual money to investors, who traded gold on the floor without paying money prior to the transaction. If the investors failed in their trading, they had to pay real money to BBG.

The police are continuing to investigate BBG's activities.

FPT Group expands operations into the Philippines

FPT Group, a multinational information technology company of Vietnam with branches in 14 countries, is continuing to enhance its presence in Asia with the recent launch of a new development centre in Cebu, the Philippines.

The new centre, which celebrated its grand opening on May 29, 2015, will help the company fulfill its global strategy of achieving annual revenue of US$1 billion and a commanding 30,000 strong IT workforce in the region by 2020.

The Philippines is considered a promising destination for the software industry due to the large pool of IT and engineering university graduates and their strong command of the English language.

FPT Software has also unveiled plans to establish a new development centre in Myanmar in June 2015.

Manufacturing output expands

Manufacturing growth gathered pace in May, with rising client demand leading to record growth in output and new orders, HSBC Vietnam has said in a monthly report it released on June 1.

The Purchasing Managers' Index report said the rate of job creation also picked up pace during the month.

Input costs increased for the first time in seven months, but firms continued to lower their output prices.

The headline, seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a composite indicator designed to provide a single-figure snapshot of operating conditions in the manufacturing economy, rose for the second month running to 54.8 from 53.5 in April.

The marked improvement in operating conditions signalled by the latest reading was the strongest since the series began in April 2011.

Business conditions have now improved in each of the past 21 months.

Central to the marked strengthening of the sector's health was a record increase in new business. Respondents indicated that the rise mainly reflected a greater need for products among customers. New export orders also rose, albeit at a much weaker pace than for total new business.

As client demand increased, manufacturers raised production accordingly. As a result, output increased for the 20th month in a row and at the strongest pace in the series' history.

Firms were able to increase output partly as a result of a second successive month of job creation in May.

Employment rose solidly and at the sharpest pace since January. There was still evidence of pressure on capacity in the latest survey, however, as backlog of work accumulated for the first time in five months. Panellists largely attributed higher outstanding business to a sharp growth in new orders.

After having fallen in each of the previous six months, input costs for manufacturing firms rose. Higher oil and electricity prices, as well as a weakening of the dong against the US dollar, were mentioned by respondents as the reasons for the increase.

But that said, the rate of inflation was relatively modest and firms continued to lower their prices amid competitive pressures. Prices have now decreased in each of the past eight months.

Rising production requirements led manufacturers to increase their buying of inputs.

Purchasing activity expanded sharply and at the fastest pace in the series history. This contributed to a second successive monthly accumulation of stocks of purchases, with the expansion also the fastest recorded in over four years of data collection so far.

Suppliers' delivery times lengthened marginally as panellists mentioned limited stock holdings by vendors. This was despite some reports that quick payments had led to faster deliveries. Delays in the dispatch of products to clients contributed to an accumulation of stocks of finished goods in May, while strong output growth was also cited as a factor leading to increased post-production inventories.

Andrew Harker, senior economist at Markit, which co-ordinates with the bank for the survey, said, "The Vietnamese manufacturing sector gained further momentum in May and growth rates are now the best we have seen in the four years of data collection so far.

"Central to the recent success of firms in Vietnam has been their ability to secure new work in a competitive environment, and the recent 1% devaluation of the dong against the US dollar by the State Bank of Vietnam should help efforts to maintain international competitiveness.

"On the other hand, some firms did report a rise in costs as a result of the weaker currency, leading to a first rise in input prices in seven months."

Real estate inventory continues to fall in May

Vietnam’s real estate inventory was estimated at 67.4 trillion VND (3.13 billion USD) by the end of May this year, according to statistics recently  announced by the Ministry of Construction (MoC).

This estimated value showed a reduction of over 1.3 trillion VND (62.2 million USD) compared to April and a fall of 47.5 per cent compared with  the first quarter of 2013.

Statistics indicated that property inventory in the apartment segment was at 12,908 units, worth 19.79 trillion VND (920 million USD), while that of  houses was 9,066 units, worth 16.13 trillion VND (750 million USD).

The inventory of residential land was 8.4 million square metres, worth 26.97 trillion (1.25 billion USD), and commercial land - at 1.6 million square  metres, worth 4.5 trillion VND (209 million USD).

In the first four months of 2015, there were 5,850 successful transactions, an increase of two fold and a half compared to the same period of  2014.

Outstanding real estate loans in the first quarter were valued at 333.7 trillion VND (15.4 billion USD), up 2 percent compared to the same period  last year.

The MoC figures also indicated that housing prices were more stable compared to two years ago.

In the first quarter of this year, the price of nearly-completed projects increased slightly, about 5-10 percent compared to the same period last  year, particularly those at convenient locations with complete technical and social infrastructure.

The market's structure also changed, with 60 projects converting from commercial housing to social housing, with 38,897 apartments, and 74  others asking to reduce the size of apartments to meet market demand.

Jetstar Pacific runs first Hanoi-Da Lat flight

The first flight of the budget carrier Jetstar Pacific linking capital Hanoi with the resort city of Da Lat in the Central Highlands province of Lam  Dong landed in Lien Khuong airport at 9:05 am, carrying nearly 180 passengers.

As planned, the carrier will operate one round-trip flight daily with each taking one hour and 50 minutes.

According to the carrier, over 10,000 passengers have booked the new flight services so far.

The same flight route is currently being operated by the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and the low-cost Vietjet Air.

This summer, domestic carriers have increased the daily frequency of Hanoi-Da Lat flight to six in order to meet travel demand, including three by  Vietjet Air, two by Vietnam Airlines and one by Jetstar Pacific.

Central Highlands prospects to be made known worldwide

Newly-appointed heads of Vietnamese representative agencies abroad will communicate the potential of the Central Highlands to the world,  thereby inviting investment into the region for its sustainable development.

Deputy Foreign Minister and Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Nguyen Quoc Cuong, who led a delegation of the newly-appointed heads for the  2015-2018 tenure, was speaking to a working session with the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands in Buon Ma Thuot city, Dak Lak  province on June 1.

Tran Viet Hung, deputy head of the committee, briefed the delegation on the regional socio-economic development prospects, saying that its  2014 total production climbed 8.74 percent annually and exports hit a record rise of 49.3 percent to 2.5 billion USD.

The total revenue to the State budget increased by 9.2 percent while the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita reached 1,640 USD, up 13.6  percent and equivalent to 81 percent of the country’s GDP per capita.

The region is home to over 570,000ha of coffee that generates 1.2 million tonnes of coffee beans per year, or 94 percent of the nation’s total, and  more than 60,000ha of pepper trees with a total yearly output of 80,000 tonnes.

The corn, tea, cashew nut, rubber, sugar cane and cassava output account for 18-26 percent of those recorded by whole nation.

However, its economy still falls behind others across the country due to failure to tap its potential to the fullest and underdeveloped infrastructure,  especially in transport and irrigation.

Vietnam consumer confidence unchanged in May: ANZ

The Vietnam consumer confidence index is unchanged at 140.2 in May, well above its long-term average of 135.2, according to research by the  ANZ Bank.

In terms of current personal finances, 36 percent (up 1 percentage point) of Vietnamese said their families are ‘better off’ financially than this time  last year, compared to just 18 percent (down 1 percentage point) who said their families are ‘worse off’ financially (the lowest for this indicator since March 2014).

Of the respondents surveyed, 56 percent (down 1ppt) expect their families to be ‘better off’ financially this time next year compared to only 5  percent (down 1ppt) who expect to be ‘worse off’ financially.

Fifty-three percent (down 2ppts) of Vietnamese expect the country to have ‘good times’ financially during the next 12 months and 12 percent (up  1ppt) expect ‘bad times’ financially.

In the longer term, 61 percent (down 2ppts) of the respondents expect Vietnam to have ‘good times’ economically over the next five years compared to just 5 percent (unchanged) who expect ‘bad times’.

Forty-seven percent (unchanged) of Vietnamese say it is now a ‘good time to buy’ major household items compared to 12 percent (down 3ppts)  who believe now is a ‘bad time to buy’ these items.

Glenn Maguire, ANZ Chief Economist for South Asia, ASEAN & the Pacific, said he foresees the Vietnamese economy enjoying an ongoing  recovery for 2015 and 2016. This should create an environment where households become more confident to spend, further strengthening the  recovery in domestic demand, he claimed.

HCM City concerned about outdated industrial zones

Between 60 and 70 percent of equipment and technologies used at export processing and industrial zones is outdated, resulting in products with  low added value, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee has said.

The committee has asked the HCM City Export Processing and Industrial Zone Authority (HEPZA) to restructure business operations of industrial  zones, most of which have been operating for about 20 years.

The city asked HEPZA to examine enterprises' capital, technology, products, land-use efficiency, and employees' professional skills.

The city said that Freetrend Company in Thu Duc District's Linh Trung Processing Zone, for example, did not operate efficiently.

It has a 110,000 sq m plant and 21,000 workers to process footwear for many international brand names. Its turnover is 1.4 trillion VND (67  million USD) a year but the company only contributes 22 million VND (1,000 USD) in tax.

At least 100 companies in the city are operating with a similar low economic efficiency, the committee said.

According to HEPZA's management board, most foreign projects are labour-intensive with low added value, especially in electronic assembling,  footwear, and textiles and garments.

Seventy-three percent of enterprises in HEPZAs are small enterprises with capital under 5 million USD.

Very few of them produce high added value products. When the industrial zones first opened, the focus was simply on creating new jobs. There  were few standards applied to technology, capital or management skills.

In 2013, only 1 percent of enterprises had modern technology, while 51 percent used outdated technology.

Links between foreign and local enterprises were also poor as most foreign companies imported equipment and raw materials.

To implement business restructuring, the city plans to focus on technology investment, shifting from processing to manufacturing technology to  increase value addition and enhance competitiveness.

The city will invite only investors with high added value production and green technology, and it will focus on support industry and services to  industry.

Labour-intensive companies and low- and medium –level technology enterprises will receive support to restructure their business.

Product design and manufacturing capability and ISO quality management application will also be speeded up.

"Four key industries, including: engineering, electricity-electronics, pharmaceutical chemistry and food processing have attracted workers from  intensive-labour industries," Vu Van Hoa, head of the HEPZA's management board was quoted as saying in Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai  Gon) newspaper.

The number of workers in the engineering industry has increased by 15.6 percent, electricity-electronics 9 percent, pharmaceutical chemistry  14.6 percent and food processing 21.6 percent, compared to the same period last year.

"There are 7,000 excellent workers being sent to train in developed countries like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Thailand," Hoa  said.

He said that seven low-technology and labour-intensive projects in Linh Trung Processing Zone and eight others in Tan Thuan Processing Zone  had moved to the Mekong Delta provinces of Ben Tre and Tra Vinh.

"The infrastructure on the empty land will be upgraded, and we'll look for high-technology projects," he said.-

Foreign firms pour almost 1 billion USD in Dong Nai

From the beginning of 2015 to May 20, southern Dong Nai province recorded more than 998 million USD worth of foreign direct investment.

Accordingly, there were 37 new projects valued at more than 812 million USD and 31 existing projects gaining additional funds. Most of them are  built inside industrial parks.

Future incentives from the upcoming formation of ASEAN Economic Community and sinning of free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific  Partnership (TPP) have stimulated the flow of overseas capital, revealed Bo Ngoc Thu, Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment.

Long Thanh international airport, which will soon be constructed in the locality, also contributes to the FDI stimulus, she said.

This year, businesses from Japan, Singapore, the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among others have come to Dong Nai to seek  investment opportunities in the sectors of industry, services, agriculture, real estate and tourism.

The province has been in favour with those enterprises thanks to its preferential policies, convenient transportation, and well-organised industrial  zones with completed infrastructure.

Director of the Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan's Kansai region Seki Soichiro unveiled that ten companies from his hometown  have so far operated effectively at Dong Nai’s Long Duc industrial park.

According to Soichiro, local rapid registration and licensing procedures make more Japanese firms have investment plans in the provincial  support industry in the coming time.

Edward Kowalewski, Director of the New York State International Trade Programs, shared that raring to grab a pie of the improved market once  the TPP is signed, New York enterprises have shown interest in Dong Nai’s potential for the development of industry, agriculture and services.  

Some even made contact with local business organisations for cooperation and direct export from the US, he added.

In a recent meeting with the provincial authorities, Sultan Ali Rashed Lootah, General Director of the UAE’s Vault Investment Fund, noted his  country wants to invest in some facilities in the Long Thanh international airport project.-

Soc Trang records fragrant rice success

The cultivation of fragrant rice in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang has shown good results, according to experts.

Soc Trang, the main fragrant rice growing province in the delta, has around 148,000ha under rice, with 44 percent of it earmarked for speciality  varieties, mostly of the fragrant kind.

In 1992-2015, Soc Trang spent more than 9 billion VND (430,000 USD) on 20 programmes for creating and restoring speciality rice varieties.

One of them, to create the ST fragrant rice strain, has ended with many varieties ranging from ST 1 to ST 25. Many of them are exported at high  prices.

ST 5, for instance, has fetched over 600 USD a tonne for the past seven years.

Speaking at a seminar held in the province in mid-May, Ho Quang Cua, deputy chairman of the Soc Trang Union of Science and Technology  Associations and also one of the local scientists who researched and created the ST varieties, said many farmers growing fragrant rice made  profits of 50 -70 percent.

Cua and his research group are planning to popularise ST varieties from 20 to 25, red ST, and purple ST so that more of them are grown for  export. The export prices of these are as high as 800 USD a tonne.

Many cooperatives in the province have tied up with companies to ensure there are outlets for their fragrant rice.

Vo Tong Xuan, rector of the Can Tho University, hailing Soc Trang's scientists for creating the ST variety, said the province should look for  investment in rice drying, husking, polishing, and packaging facilities.

Seminar participants said the profits from speciality rice strains are very high, adding if the grain is grown using a proper model like the  large-scale rice fields and there is cooperation between farmers, scientists, companies, and authorities, farmers could enjoy up to 84 percent of  the profit made through the chain until the rice reaches the consumer.

Le Thanh Tri, Vice Chairman of the Soc Trang People's Committee, said to further develop speciality rice farming, the province needs to  dissuade individual and small farming and strengthen cooperation between farmers, scientists, companies, and the Government.

The province should provide farmers with advanced technologies and create more high-quality rice strains suitable for harsh weather conditions,  he added.

Binh Thuan keen to develop agricultural farms

The southern central province of Binh Thuan has taken a number of concrete measures to facilitate the development of agricultural farms to fully  tap the local potential for agricultural production, a local official said.

These efforts include providing incentives in land use rights, increasing access to loans, and applying more technology in farming. The province  has planned training courses to improve understanding and skills among farm owners.

According to Pham Huu Thu from the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, around 700 farms engaging in both cultivation  and animal breeding have been counted in the province as of May this year.

The farms generated a combined more than 950 billion VND (44.4 million USD) in revenues in 2014, creating jobs for thousands of local  residents.

The production model has contributed to restructuring agricultural production and accelerating modern rural building in the province, Thu added.

Farmer Lam Van Hien from northern Ham Thuan district earns hundreds of millions of VND per year from his five-ha farm, which grows fruits  including mango and dragon fruit. He raises chickens in the garden and breeds fish in a 30,000 sq. metre pond.

Official statistics show that Binh Thuan is enjoying average annual growth of 11.6 percent.

In 2014, its per capita income reached 1,656 USD, a 12.7-fold increase from 1991. Domestic budget revenue totalled 4,000 billion VND (184.3  million USD) compared to 140 billion VND in 1993.

PM sets target for socio-economic development in 2016

Vietnam must stabilise the macro economy in 2016 while ensuring stellar economic growth, according to instructions issued by Prime Minister  Nguyen Tan Dung on May 29 on the designing of socio-economic development plans and budget estimates for next year.

The instruction gave the overall target for economic growth in 2016 as over 6.5 percent, driven by economic restructuring and growth model  reform.

The agriculture sector will be shaken up with the continued building of new style rural areas and the introduction of high-tech applications into  agriculture production. The country will push forward exports and control imports of non-essential commodities.

The investment climate should be greatly improved while administration procedures and government management efficiency will be quickly  improved, especially across the fields of tax, customs and social insurance. The move aims to create favourable conditions for both residents and enterprises.

Social security diversification is also a key objective in 2016, with the focus on enhancing labour quality, developing education-training and  science-technology, promoting health care socialisation and implementing ethnic and religion policies.

Regarding budget estimates planning, the instruction said budget revenue from export-import activities is set to rise up by 6-8 percent while  revenues from tax and fees should be 18-19 percent of the GDP. Domestic revenue estimate (excluding revenue from land use) should be at  least 15 percent higher than the estimated figure for this year.

The PM’s instruction also stated out that state budget expenditure estimate for 2016 must be in line with the socio-economic blueprints for 2016  and the 2016-2020 period.

Ministries, branches and localities need to set up budget forecasts in accordance with the government’s fund allocating norms, which priotise  defence and security as well as key sectors as defined in Party and National Assembly’s resolutions.

Khanh Hoa-based fishing centre to link seafood businesses

The south-central fishing centre, which is to be built in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, is expected to play a crucial role in  strengthening links among regional seafood businesses.

According to the national strategy for fisheries development through to 2020, Vietnam will set up five fishing centres in major areas, including the  south-central coastal region – covering Khanh Hoa, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces.

The centre will cover 46 hectares at Da Bac fishing port in Khanh Hoa’s Cam Ranh city, serving the south-central and Truong Sa (Spartly) fishing  grounds.

From now to 2018, the project, worth over 1.5 trillion VND (72 million USD), will encompass infrastructure building, seaport expansion, route  upgrades to the centre and construction of a separate harbour for tuna fishing boats and workshops to repair fishing vessels.

The deep-water port at Da Bac is not the biggest and most modern of its kind in Khanh Hoa province, but was chosen to house the fishing centre  because of its proximity to international trade ports.

Khanh Hoa province in general has favourable geography and strong capacity to attract human and financial resources, increase the added value  of aquatic products, and develop seafood along with national sea and island defence and security, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and  Rural Development.

It is vital to establish such a centre to forge links between provinces towards sustainable fisheries development, experts said, illustrating the  planned joint tuna production project conducted by Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, and Khanh Hoa provinces.

Under this project, the trio will set up a tuna trade centre in Khanh Hoa province, which is expected to help fishermen sell their products to both  domestic and foreign businesses.

The People’s Committee of Khanh Hoa province is calling on Japanese investors to expand Da Bac fishing port.

Even when the fishing centre takes shape, the province still wants Japanese firms to invest more in the local markets, cold preservation storage,  fuel services, hi-tech shipbuilding factories and seafood sorting and processing facilities, local authorities said.

Quality, image focus urged for lychee exports

As the first containers of Vietnam's lychees have been shipped to the US and Australia, the country will continue expanding fruit exports to other markets, such as the EU.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh made this statement at a press meeting in Hanoi on June 1.

Anh noted that it almost took five to eight years to bring fruits and vegetable to world markets. Lychee took 14 years to penetrate the two countries, which have strict quality requirements.

"Vietnam's markets will require further efforts from the country's exporters to build their image and promote marketing activities," he said, adding that the first cargo has also proved the efforts of businesses to seek markets, as well as their struggle to enhance product quality.

However, he said the main lychee consumption of around 200,000 tonnes this year would still rely on the local market and export to China which accounted for 60% of the total.

The deputy minister forecast that this year's consumption will be similar or slightly higher than that of last year.

"One of the difficult tasks is to improve the quality of our lychee so that they can surpass certain technical barriers in developed countries," he noted.

The ministry will continue taking measures to encourage lychee consumption by connecting purchasing enterprises with farmers.

Recently, the ministry tied up with northern Lang Son Province to build a 143-ha transit area with a total investment of VND986 billion to ease the accumulation of agricultural products at border gates. The area is also expected to improve the export of agricultural products, especially seasonal items.

Answering questions on electricity shortage, the deputy minister confirmed there would be no shortage in the hot season.

Supporting the minister's view, Dinh The Phuc, deputy director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (ERAV), pointed out that the prolonged hot weather earlier this year saw power consumption during the first five months of the year surging by 13.56% over the same period last year.

While average daily power consumption rose by 17%, Hanoi's daily consumption increased by 28% compared with the previous month.

"It was one of the reasons that led to overloading in some areas in the northern region," Phuc said.

He added that the ERAV is required to stop all repair works in the power sector if temperature rises over 36 degree Celsius so that the people will not have to suffer.

In addition, he also urged the people to save power to avoid overloading and ensure the safety of high-voltage power grids.

The electricity output in the five months was estimated at 61.1 billion kWh, posting an 11.3% year-on-year increase.

The power consumption of the construction sector rose by 9.37%; hotels and restaurants 12.79%; households 9.53%; and that of the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector increased by 5.79%.

Total production in the power sector in recent hot days reached 25,000MW.

Vo Van Quyen, director of the ministry's Domestic Market Department, said they would review the situation to reduce retail fuel prices or the utilisation of petroleum price stabilisation fund in the next three days if prices in the world market continue to decrease.