BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES APRIL 3

Vietnamese confectionery firms get their act together

Vietnamese confectionery businesses have upgraded production technologies to improve quality and efficiency, and developed new product lines to retain market share at home and also boost exports amid fierce competition.

Bibica Corporation, one of the country’s largest confectionery firms, opened a factory in Long An province last year with modern lines imported from Europe and the US.

The company said it is part of a long-term development strategy with a focus on investing in modern technologies, increasing capacity and improving products to meet new trends.

In recent years Bibica has also focused on distribution systems and finding new markets.

Its number of sales outlets went up from 95,000 in 2016 to 130,000 by the end of last year, and it exported its products to over 21 markets, including quality-conscious ones such as the US, Japan and Singapore.

Another confectionery producer, Huu Nghi Food, is building a 800 billion VND (34.2 million USD) food factory in Bac Ninh province, thought to be one the most modern of its kind in Southeast Asia, and it is expected to be open this year.

The company said the factory would help increase productivity and both meet domestic demand and expand exports.

Bao Hung International JSC has built a second factory equipped with a European production line and invested in expanding its distribution system in. It has also worked to obtain international certificates required to export its products to more markets.

Truong Phu Chien, general director of Bibica, said Vietnamese enterprises have an advantage over their foreign rivals in terms of understanding local tastes and distribution systems.

But Pham Ngoc Hung, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Union of Business Associations, said many consumers still prefer imports partly because of local products’ limitations in terms of models, packaging, marketing strategies, and branding.

Only a few local firms could take their foreign counterparts head-on, he said.

Customs figures show that confectionery imports have increased significantly in recent years to top 360.6 million USD last year, with products coming mainly from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China, and the Republic of Korea.

In the reverse direction, sales were more than 660 million USD to 29 countries and territories, including choosy markets such as the US, Japan, Australia, France, and the UK.

Experts said therefore more communication campaigns are needed to apprise consumers about local products and their quality./.

Technology solutions sought to develop digital economy in Vietnam

The International Data Group in Vietnam (IDG) and the Radio and Electronics Association of Vietnam jointly held a teleconference named “World Mobile Broadband & ISP 2020” on March 27 aiming to seek technology solutions to boost digital economic development in the country.

Under the theme of “5G & Mobile Broadband Promoting Digital Economy: Visions and Technology Solutions,” the teleconference focused on introducing the roadmap, deployment experience, and new technology proposals to promote the development of mobile and fixed telecommunications infrastructure as well as the trend of developing digital content services on that platform.

Delegates exchanged views on the roadmap for 5G planning and development in Vietnam, and studied experience in commercialising 5G in developed countries, digital economy model on the basis of high-speed connection, and building ecosystems on the connection platform.

Currently, in parallel with the development of new-generation mobile networks, Vietnam is also paying special attention to the development of other telecom connection infrastructure, as the country considers the development of telecom infrastructure a decisive factor in making the best use of opportunities to integrate into the fourth Industrial Revolution.

In fact, Vietnam holds enormous potential in connecting and developing telecommunication services, both mobile and fixed. According to statistics of the Department of Telecommunications, as of the end of October 2019, the total number of fixed broadband subscribers exceeded 14.4 million, while the number of mobile broadband subscribers generating traffic reached over 61 million. The total capacity of domestic internet connections is more than 2.7 million Mbps and the total capacity of international connections is more than 7.5 million Mbps.

As businesses and organisations are actively engaging in digital transformation towards a comprehensive digital and digital economy by 2030 according to the national digital transformation project, Vietnam telecom market has a lot of potential to invest in, from connecting infrastructure to digital content services or investment, applying hi-tech solutions to increase efficiency and comprehensive change of production, trade and service activities./.

Vietnam seeks to expand market to sustain GDP amid COVID-19

Vietnam is striving to battle the COVID-19 pandemic while attaining socio-economic growth targets with authorities and enterprises making every effort to increase exports and stabilize the domestic market to sustain GDP this year.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said that although the pandemic has affected production and goods distribution, Vietnam’s exports in the first two months of this year grew 8.4%, much more than last year. But the Ministry expects global trade to face a lot of difficulties in the near future.

Since the beginning of the year, export revenues for Vietnam’s staple commodities, including agro-fishery products, have decreased.

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh has asked affiliates to quickly conduct market surveys and create scenarios to adapt to COVID-19 complications and other market developments, particularly in Vietnam’s traditional export markets in Europe, Asia, and the US.

Minister Anh said, "The Industry Department needs to work with the Export and Import Department and the Department of Foreign Markets to evaluate impacts on Vietnam’s commodities and traditional and new export markets and work out solutions from now to the end of the year to attain the targets of production, market, and supply chain development.

We’ll market electronics, wood products, agro-fishery products, and processed products to the Republic of Korea, China, Europe, and Latin America.”

The Export and Import Department has surveyed key markets, particular those less impacted by the COVID-19, and has instructed businesses to resume exports to China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan where the epidemic is gradually gotten under control. The Ministry will soon implement specific measures to attain its export targets for the EU, the US, and ASEAN.

The Ministry is finalize documents so the National Assembly can ratify the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement to boost exports later this year.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has asked enterprises to take steps to stabilize the domestic market by capitalizing on the EVFTA and enhancing competitiveness.

Minister Anh said, “The structure of the domestic market, retail distribution, trade infrastructure, and many other sectors will have to compete with products imported from the EU and other partners. We have to restructure all sectors, including industry, agriculture, trade, and services.”

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has pledged to continue to simplify administrative procedures for about 200 investment and trade regulations this year. The Department of Electronic Trade and Digital Economy is being asked to help businesses boost e-commerce in the domestic market.

Ho Chi Minh City endures fall in investment attraction

BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES APRIL 3

Investment attraction in Ho Chi Minh City reached a mere US$1.5 billion during the first three months of 2020, representing a year-on-year fall of 33%, earning only VND 899 billion per day in the process and only meeting 55% of the estimated target.

The figure was released by Mayor Nguyen Thanh Phong during the 19th session of the HCM City People’s Committee on March 27.

Mayor Phong attributed the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic to the current slowdown facing the city's economy. Indeed, although the southern metropolis is making every effort to protect people's health, there have been negative economic impacts as a result.

The first quarter of the year saw the city's gross regional domestic product plummet to only VND899 billion per day, a vast drop when compared to the set target of VND1,636 billion per day.

Despite this, the southern city’s current focus is to make every effort to ultimately contribute to the country's fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.

The major focus is on doing its utmost to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and keep the number of infections below 150, Phong said.

The City People's Council has plans for VND2,753 billion to be used as part of the city’s spending in attempts to prevent the epidemic whilst also supporting workers affected by the disease.

Vietnam–Japan trade up 8.6% in two months

The General Department of Vietnam Customs has reported that the Vietnam – Japan trade reached US$6.2 billion in the first two months of this year, an 8.6% increase from a year earlier.

Vietnam’s exports to Japan rose by 6%. Agricultural exports amounted US$248.3 million, up 4.7% year on year.

Among the agricultural items, vegetables and fruits saw the largest growth of 25%, followed by cashew nuts 19.1%, and aquatic products 2.5%.

Last year, the two-way trade reached US$39.9 billion, up 6% year-on-year with US$20.4 billion from Vietnamese exports, up 8.4%, statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed.

Vietnamese enterprises' outward investment sees slowdown

Overseas investment activities operated by Vietnamese enterprises endured a considerable slowdown during the first quarter of 2020 with outward investment totaling US$49 million since the beginning of the year, according to the Foreign Investment Agency.

The year’s first quarter has seen an overall figure of US$49.3 million of the nation’s investment capital abroad being pumped into both new and existing projects, equivalent to 41.1% in comparison with the same period during 2019.

These figures indicate that local businesses have begun to reduce the amount that they are investing abroad in comparison to the higher level of outward investment seen over the past few years. Despite this slowdown, it is worth noting that many domestic enterprises have expanded their investment in new markets, as opposed to focusing on traditional markets such as Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

The Foreign Investment Agency also noted that, among the 13 countries and territories which have received investment capital from the nation over the previous three months, the United States tops the list.

Vietnamese investment in the US accounts for 40.8% of total investment capital and is spread throughout seven new projects with an overall figure of US$20.1 million.

Following the US is Singapore with US$12.8 million, 26% of the overall figure, then Cambodia, Cuba, and Hong Kong (China).

It is worth noting that TH Group recently completed a deal in order to purchase three cattle farms in Australia, including two based in Auvergne in North Australia, and an additional one in Argyle Downs in West Australia. These locations have a combined total area of 1,106,300 ha and are home to 60,000 cattle.

The agreement to buy these farms was signed in early 2019 between the Clean Agriculture and the International Tourism Company, a TH Group subsidiary, and Consolidated Pastoral Company, the previous owner of the three farms.

In addition to entering new markets, Vietnamese firms have also begun to invest in other areas abroad, with ten sectors being invested in during the year’s first quarter.

Indeed, accommodation and food services were the most prominent with two projects worth US$14.7 million, holding 29.9%, while scientific and professional activities came second with US$12 million, constituting 24.3%, followed by the manufacturing industry, wholesale, and retail.

SHi and Sun* to run start-up incubation programme

Songhan Incubator (SHi) and Sun* Startups will run a start-up incubation programme in May and June this year.

Start-ups in Hanoi that apply information technology at pre-seed or seed stage can participate in the programme.

These start-ups will receive theoretical and practical training on key issues over the two months.

After graduation, they are expected to have innovative thinking associated to plan the development of their teams. They will also be consulted by technology engineers to complete product models.

The start-ups will also be provided with offices, legal advice and links with domestic and foreign investment funds in the network of Sun* and SHi.

Sun* is a start-up studio specialising in creating technology start-ups by investing in solutions and consulting. To date, it has invested in 16 start-ups in Vietnam and Japan.

SHi is one of the first private incubators in Vietnam focusing on incubation and acceleration support for start-ups on innovation and building an innovative start-up ecosystem in the country./.

Metfone, MB Cambodia ink five-year cooperation deal

Metfone, the Cambodian affiliate of the military-run telecom group Viettel, and the branch in Cambodia of the Military Bank (MB Cambodia), on March 26 signed an MoU on their five-year strategic cooperation.

Accordingly, during 2020-2025, MB Cambodia will meet credit demand of Metfone and provide it with all corporate financial services at a credit limit of 100 million USD at competitive interest rates.

MB Cambodia will provide credit worth about 15 million USD with preferential interest rates and conditions for Metfone’s partner businesses, subsidiaries and employees.

Meanwhile, Metfone will prioritize transferring its cash flows of revenue to a bank account opened at MB Cambodia and using financial services at the bank. Metfone will also prioritize sending money back to Vietnam via the MB Cambodia’s system, while providing telecommunication services to the bank with preferential prices and priority services.

After more than 10 years of operation in the Cambodian market, Metfone is considered as one of the leading telecom companies in the country, creating jobs for more than 12,000 workers, contributing more than 500 million USD to the host country’s budget so far.

MB Cambodia has developed a distribution network of two branches and 120 agents throughout Cambodia./.

Firms warned of transactions with partners in US market

Some Vietnamese enterprises have recently reported losses incurred from business contracts with partners in the US market, according to the Vietnam Trade Promotion Centre in New York.

The losses mainly result from fraud, bankruptcy or inability to pay, the centre said.

The main reason is that Vietnamese firms have not carefully checked their partners before establishing business relationships, or given their partners more benefits in contract terms, especially in payment terms.

Foreign businesses have often taken advantage of this loophole to delay or escape payment.

To avoid risks and losses, Vietnamese firms should be more careful in the context that markets are seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in checking information related to partners on the internet, the centre said.

In addition, they can ask for support from Vietnam’s commerce representative offices abroad for checking information like addresses, phone numbers, representatives and operation of foreign firms, it added./.

COVID-19 to pull VN’s growth down to 6.3 percent: Fitch Solutions

Fitch Solutions on March 24 revised down Vietnam’s economic growth in 2020 to 6.3 percent from 6.8 percent previously due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a report on the outlook for emerging markets (EM), Fitch noted that Vietnam had low fiscal flexibility, given its high public sector liabilities, to manoeuvre with regard to policy, which could limit the size, speed and effectiveness of their responses.

Fitch also downgraded the growth of other emerging markets, forecasting that the pandemic would pull EM growth down to 2009 levels.

“Although we have not seen many large localised outbreaks of Covid-19 across emerging markets, we forecast EM growth to come in below 3.0 percent in 2020. This will mark a sharp deceleration from the recent high of 4.8 percent in 2017 and the slowest pace of growth since 2009 during the financial crisis, when EMs grew by 2.6 percent in 2009,” Fitch said.

It noted it had already made several revisions to its growth forecasts and expected more over the coming weeks, as an increasing number of countries experience outbreaks of their own and as more governments impose localised lockdowns and travel restrictions.

According to Fitch, the combination of financial market stress hitting EMs, less policy space, weakening external demand and a rising number of localised coronavirus cases will weigh heavily on growth.

“Global financial market stress has seen a sharp tightening of liquidity conditions for EMs, which we believe will weigh significantly on growth. The sharp sell-off in markets has resulted in around a 30 percent decline in the MSCI Emerging Market Equity Index, around a 350 basis points (bps) widening in the JP Morgan Global EMBI Spread, and about an 8 percent decline in the MSCI EM FX Index since January 2020 on the back of a recent 9 percent appreciation of the US dollar across the board. Historically, this type of volatility has led a sharp reduction in growth across EMs in the months following the period of stress.”

While not surprising, there is clear evidence that financial market stress in EMs results in a sharp slowing in growth after financial conditions deteriorate.

Going forward, Fitch expected ongoing financial stress and especially the sharp widening of credit spreads and declining equity, currency and commodity markets to weigh on growth./.

PM orders faster public capital disbursement to fuel growth

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered ministries, sectors and localities to boost the disbursement of public investment capital and consider this as the most important measure to make up for the losses the COVID-19 epidemic causes to economic growth.

This is part of the conclusion he made at the recent meeting on solutions to tackle difficulties, promote economic growth and ensure social security under the pandemic’s impact.

Accordingly, the PM requested ministries, sectors and localities to work harder to disburse all the capital left from 2019 as well as the amount planned for this year.

He also demanded stronger attraction of private and foreign investment, effective implementation of credit support solutions, swift handling of administrative procedures for the early application of rescheduling and reduction of taxes and fees related to businesses, and support for the exploration of new export markets.

Additionally, the Government leader told them to keep a close watch on the pandemic’s developments and influence on economic growth so as to propose aid packages to stimulate growth at appropriate points of time.

They were also requested to take measures to ensure social security and care for people’s life, especially labourers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak; strictly control prices of the State-managed commodities and input materials for businesses; and ensure the supply of food and essential goods for consumption./.

Hundreds of Danang firms shut down as China market still closes

Hundreds of firms in Danang City have shut down or gone bankrupt as China is closed to imports due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Statistics from Danang People's Committee showed that the city's economy suffered greatly during the first quarter of 2020. Many firms scaled-down business and cut staff because their biggest customer is China. Many firms who do not trade directly with China have also been badly affected.

In February, the number of tourists dropped 46.6% compared to the same period last year. The number of international and domestic tourists decreased by 41.7% and 51.5% respectively while revenue from accommodation decreased by 35.6%. There are no visitors from China and South Korea and the number of visitors from Japan, Thailand and the EU also dropped by 50-60%.

Tour firms suffered huge losses from cancelled trips and rooms. Many have already temporarily shut down.

The retail revenue in February reached VND4.7trn (USD198m) and VND10.2trn in the first two months, an increase of 8.2% compared to the same period last year. The gain is due to increased demand for medical supplies and essential products. Other retail products, businesses and restaurants have been hard hit by the outbreak. The number of goods sold during the day at Big C and Lotte has dropped by 50%.

According to the Department of Industry and Trade, the city's export revenue in the first two months was USD218.3m, a slight increase of 3% on last year. Border closure and stricter flying measures have caused difficulties. Moreover, firms can hardly import materials from China. The amount of material imported via air, dropped by 50-60%, sea 20-40% and land 30% respectively.

The Department of Planning and Investment said that in the first three months, only 912 new firms and representative offices were set up, a decrease12.2% while total registered capital reached VND4.8trn, down 10.3%. Meanwhile, 170 firms have dissolved and up to 753 firms and branches have temporarily shut down.

The service industry accounts for 60% of the city's GDP and the industrial sector accounts for 20%. In order to cope with the outbreak, the city will make plans to promote sea and waterway tourism for the domestic market. They will co-operate with neighbouring cities and provinces like Hue and Quang Nam to improve services and attract customers from markets that are not affected by the outbreak.

Plans to diversify night activities like the night market in Ngu Hanh Son will be invested. In the long-run, they will develop new flight routes to Russia and India and give priority to attract visitors from Russia, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, France, Germany and North America after the outbreak ends.

A markets and investment conference will be held in Danang in 2020 to promote tourism and call for investments in the city. The city authorities also seek to maintain and boost co-operation with foreign economic co-operation agencies.

MBBank postpones annual meeting

The Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank (MBBank) has decided to postpone its annual shareholders’ meeting.

The meeting was scheduled for April, but the bank has decided to put it off until the end of June.

The decision was made as the Government and authorities in Hanoi attempted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Central and provincial governments have banned all events and meetings and closed stores and restaurants that attract large numbers of people.

MBBank recorded 10 trillion VND (429 million USD) in pre-tax profit in 2019, up 29 percent year on year and 5 percent higher than the annual target.

Total outstanding loans rose 15.5 percent on-year to nearly 240 trillion VND, and total assets were up 13 percent on-year to 400 trillion VND.

The bank's shares (HoSE: MBB) lost 3.8 percent to end on March 26 at 15,050 VND./.

Construction firm debuts on HoSE

 

The Kien Giang Construction Investment Consultancy Group listed 50 million shares on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE) on March 25.

The company has been listed as CKG and its shares debuted at 11,000 VND (0.47 USD) apiece. The company's shares tumbled 20 percent to finish on March 25 at 8,800 VND.

Its shares ended flat on March 26.

The company was founded in 1992 and was equitised in 2006 with registered charter capital of 45 billion VND.

Current charter capital is 500 billion VND.

The firm’s main businesses are construction, real estate trading and financial investment.

According to Chairman Tran Tho Thang, the listing proved the company had achieved breakthroughs in operation and administration.

The company's total net revenue increased to 850 billion VND in 2018 from 795 billion VND in 2017.

Post-tax profit in these two years hit 60 billion VND and 89 billion VND, respectively.

In the first nine months of 2019, total net revenue was 910 billion VND and post-tax profit was 97 billion VND./.

First-quarter CPI sees highest rise in 2016-2020

The consumer price index (CPI) in the first quarter of 2020 rose by 5.56 percent, the highest increase during the 2016-2020 period, Director of the General Statistics Office (GSO) Nguyen Bich Lam said.

The rise was attributed to the increasing demand for food in January and February – the duration of the Lunar New Year (Tet), Lam told a press conference in Hanoi on March 27, adding that food and vegetable prices climbed up 13.21 percent and 4.14 percent respectively.

The COVID-19 outbreak began in late January 2020, so the demand for some medical products, electricity and water also increased, pushing up their respective prices by 1.43 percent, 9.89 percent and 4.75 percent.

Price hikes were also seen in other groups of commodities such as beverage and tobacco 1.8 percent; ready-made garments 1.19 percent; and housing maintenance materials 2.52 percent.

Average oil prices in the first quarter dropped by 5.75 percent compared to the same period of 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 and the oil pricing war between the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia to gain market shares.

Tourism demand increased during the Tet holiday but declined afterwards in face of the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, full-package tours went down by 1.74 percent in January-March.

Amid the complicated developments of COVID-19, the Government and the Prime Minister as well as ministries and departments directed the implementation of numerous measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic and stablise the market.

According to the GSO, basic inflation (CPI exclusive of foodstuff, fresh food, energy, and healthcare and education services) in the three-month period rose by 3.05 percent./.

Dong Nai’s industrial production slows down due to COVID-19

The index of industrial production (IIP) in the southern province of Dong Nai went up 6.6 percent in March year-on-year, reported the provincial statistics department.

The first-quarter figure only rose by 6.11 percent annually due to the shortage of input materials imported from China amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Those growth rates are much lower than the rates recorded in the same period in past years.

Several industries reported declines or lower growth such as metallurgy was down 13.74 percent, beverages 8.71 percent and electronics 6.58 percent.

A number of firms, especially electronics producers, had to cancel contracts while others operated perfunctorily.

Also according to the department, seven out of 27 local industries posted decreases in production, the highest in recent years./.

HCM City property developers offer more products

The HCM City real estate market provides more housing projects and subsidises rentals to boost the market amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

An announcement by the city Department of Construction in the first quarter said there were 3,137 housing products comprising apartments and townhouses in nine projects in the market.

Notably, a six-star hotel and office project opposite Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is now putting for sale 214 apartments after years of delay because it is the first project in Vietnam with six basements, which caused some unique difficulties.

Beside luxury properties, investors are also providing social housing on a large scale: 352 units at the Nam Phan project in Phu Huu ward, District 9, are available for sale.

This is unique because normally social housing units rarely exceed 100 in any sale, according to the investors.

Another project is in Thu Thiem ward -- Metropole Thu Thiem -- with 465 housing units.

Besides providing more housing products, developers are also offering more support policies in the context of the pandemic, according to the investors.

Hung Thinh Corporation JSC, for instance, will reduce rents by 20 - 40 percent at commercial centres at its Moonlight Plaza in Thu Duc district, Saigon Mia in Binh Chanh district and Vung Tau Melody in Vung Tau city.

Vingroup said it would spend 300 billion VND to subsidise lessees at all its 79 commercial centres with fixed-price leases.

It would also extend the payment periods for people buying houses./.

Da Nang strives for sustainable development

The central city of Da Nang has overcome many challenges over the years to become a socio-economic hub for the central region and the country.

Truong Quang Nghia, a member of the Party Central Committee and secretary of Da Nang's Party Committee, made the statement during an interview with the Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the city's liberation, which will fall on March 29.

Nghia said that before 1997, Da Nang was a small city with mainly temporary houses.

The Politburo on October 16, 2003 issued Resolution 33 to develop the city during the nation’s industrialisation and modernisation process, and since then the city has issued breakthrough policies for infrastructure and socio-economic development.

From just 100 streets, the city now has nearly 2,500 streets and new bridges. The city has successfully connected the two sides of the Han River, and connected the city’s centre with other areas and neighbouring provinces and cities. The urban area has quadrupled since 2003.

Urban construction, natural resources and environmental management has been focused on, according to the official.

He added that the Politburo said Da Nang has made significant progress and is a vanguard for development.

The city confirmed its position as a socio-economic centre for the central region with economic growth of 10 percent per year from 2003-18.

Thanks to flexible and effective policies, the city has attracted human resources, and high quality services such as transport, logistics, finance and banking have advanced and gradually confirmed their important role in the city and the nation, according to Nghia.

Da Nang continues to lead the country in terms of Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP), Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) and the Information and Communications Technology Index (ICT Index).

The average income per person has reached 4,300 USD, a massive increase compared with 1997.

The city’s next urgent task is to form a comprehensive strategy with breakthrough measures to boost its development which it can then share with other provinces and cities.

The Politburo has promulgated Resolution 43 about developing Da Nang by 2030 with a vision to 2045, which defines targets and measures for the city to become a socio-economic centre in Southeast Asia.

It will act as a centre for trade, finance, information technology, industry and international maritime urban area for the Central-Central Highlands economic zone.

With this target in mind, the city’s administration is enthusiastically compiling projects, policies and programmes for the country’s sustainable development./.

Construction group to buy back 10 million treasury shares

The Hoa Binh Construction Group has announced that it will spend 70 billion VND (2.94 million USD) buying back 10 million treasury shares (code HBC) from April 3 to May 2 in a bid to stabilise its stock price in the market.

Transactions will be executed by matching with the market price at the time of transaction.

Under COVID-19 impact, HBC shares tumbled by 35 percent compared to the beginning of the year, standing at around 7,000 VND (0.29 USD) per share.

Chairman and CEO of Hoa Binh Group Le Viet Hai said that his firm will establish a fund in accordance with legal provisions, aiming to encourage its members to invest in HBC shares through the fund.

This is also the best way to increase the confidence of shareholders and investors, especially in the time when all employees of the group show their commitment to overcome difficulties during the hard time, Hai stressed./.

Vietnam-Israel trade surpasses 236 million USD in two months

Trade between Vietnam and Israel reached 236.58 million USD in the first two months of this year, according to the Vietnamese Trade Office in Israel.

Vietnam’s export to the nation expanded 4.5 percent while its import was up 376.1 percent year-on-year, said Counsellor Le Thai Hoa.

Vietnam’s import of Israeli computers, and electronic products and components of big values has a role to play in a trade deficit of 19.62 million USD during the reviewed period.

In the two months, Vietnam shipped over 6.24 million USD worth of tuna to Israel, making up 6.6 percent of the country’s turnover from its total export of the fish, and down 32 percent year-on-year.

Vietnam’s frozen cuttlefish export value to Israel was 752,000 USD, accounting for 1.14 percent of the total of the food, and up 335.6 percent compared with the same period last year.

Israel is one of Vietnam’s 10 biggest tuna and cuttlefish importers.

The office projected that during the first quarter of this year, Vietnam’s export value to Israel will excess 163 million USD and its import value, about 192 million USD./.

Soc Trang depends on efficient farming models to beat climate change

Farmers in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang have adopted many new farming models to adapt to climate change, which has helped them cope with the severe saltwater intrusion.

They include farming shrimp or saline resistant crops in the dry season in their rice fields.

In many areas, rice farmers grow only specialty rice or have switched completely to other crops for higher incomes or because they are adapted to saltwater unlike rice.

In My Xuyen district, farmers have adopted the shrimp - rice farming model on an area of 17,500ha, the largest in the province.

The model has been adopted in coastal areas for many years. It sees farmers growing rice in the rainy season and breeding shrimp in the dry season on the same fields. Both are clean since the farmers use little pesticide or chemical.

The model offers farmers an income of more than 40 million VND (1,730 USD) per hectare per year, possibly lower than from other farming models but sustainable and with high-quality produce, according to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Luong Minh Quyet, director of the department, said shrimp bred under the model have few diseases since the cultivation of rice helps reduce pathogens and the rice grows well since the soil is fertile because of shrimp waste.

The province has created many specialty and fragrant rice strains that are resistant to drought and saltwater like ST20, ST21, ST24, and ST25.

ST25 rice won the first prize in the 2019 World’s Best Rice Contest.

Specialty and fragrant varieties now account for 50 percent of the province’s total rice growing area.

Advanced techniques

Farmers in the province also increasingly use advanced techniques to increase yields and reduce the use of water and labour.

The province has also provided financial support to farmers adopting advanced techniques.

Its project to develop fruit farming, for instance, subsidises the cost of automatic irrigation systems for orchards.

Nguyen Van Ut, who has a 7,000sq.m longan orchard in Cu Lao Dung district’s An Than Tay commune, has installed one using the subsidy.

The system could also be used to spray fertilisers and pesticides, reducing the cost of labour, he said.

“I am happy the project has helped me resolve the irrigation issue.”

Nguyen Thanh Phuoc, head of the province’s Plant Protection and Cultivation Sub-department, said the current water shortage saltwater intrusion could impact fruit growing areas, and so farmers should keep saltwater out of their orchards and store freshwater when authorities say they could draw water from irrigation canals.

They should use automatic irrigation systems and cover the bed of irrigation ditches in orchards with plastic sheets, he said.

The sub-department would continue to inform farmers about what crops including fruits to grow to mitigate possible damage if drought and saltwater intrusion last for long, he said.

Before the recent winter – spring rice crop province authorities had told farmers to sow it earlier than normal or switch to other crops to avoid the impacts of drought and saltwater intrusion, enabling farmers in many localities to prevent losses.

Le Thi Anh of Long Phu district’s Tan Hung commune has stopped growing winter – spring rice on her 2,000sq.m field and switched to straw mushroom instead.

She has harvested more than 150kg of mushroom and earned 6 million VND (260 USD) so far and expects to harvest dozens of kilogrammes more, she said.

Nguyen Huu Tai, chairman of the Tan Hung communal People’s Committee, said to cope with the water shortage and saltwater intrusion, the commune has encouraged farmers to grow other crops in some rice growing areas, including straw mushroom.

The mushroom farming model is effective, he said, adding, “We will co-operate with relevant agencies to expand the model to adapt to climate change.”

With its coastline of 72km, Soc Trang is one of the delta provinces hardest hit by saltwater intrusion in the dry season.

The delta is this year facing severe saltwater intrusion, estimated to be as bad or worse than the record intrusion in 2015-16./.

Tra Vinh promotes agricultural restructuring as drought, saline intrusion damages crops

Authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh have encouraged farmers to restructure their crop cultivation to mitigate the impact of drought and saltwater intrusion.

The coastal province has been seriously affected by climate change in recent years, especially saltwater intrusion from the sea through river mouths during the dry season.

In the ongoing 2019- 20 dry season, saltwater intrusion has occurred earlier than usual and affected nearly 15,000ha of the province’s 60,000ha of the winter-spring rice.

In Tra Cu district, which is the hardest hit by saltwater intrusion, about 55 per cent of the winter-spring rice has been affected by saltwater intrusion.

Huynh Van Thao, head of the Tra Cu Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the district is assisting farmers to protect their winter-spring rice and restructure rice cultivation for the next crops.

“Farmers have been encouraged to grow only early winter-spring rice and late autumn-winter rice next year,” he said.

In the 2020 – 21 winter-spring rice, Tra Cu is encouraging farmers to grow only 5,000ha of rice, down by 50 percent of against the 2019 -20 winter-spring rice. The reduced areas will be used for other drought resistant crops like peanut, chilli and taro.

In Cau Ke district, authorities have called on farmers to turn ineffective rice fields to other high value crops like king orange, gac fruit (Momordica cochinchinensis), and sap coconut (a specialty coconut variety that has soft and thick pulp).

Pham Van Kha, deputy head of the Cau Ke Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the district had encouraged farmers to participate in co-operatives so they can produce on a large scale and access advanced farming techniques.

Farmers should use safe and organic standards, so they can link with companies to guarantee outlets and improve income, he said.
Rice farmers who switched to other crops in drought and saltwater affected areas in recent years have 1.5 – 4 times higher profits than from rice, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Phạm Minh Truyen, director of the department, said the province planned to grow only 51,000ha of rice in the 2020 – 21 winter-spring crop, down 17,000ha against the 2019- 20 winter-spring crops.

The 17,000ha would be switched to other crops, he said.

The department in cooperation with localities was building plans for restructuring crops suited to each area, he said.
The province plans to grow three rice crops a year in areas which can secure irrigation water. In areas affected by drought and saltwater intrusion, farmers are encouraged to grow only two rice crops and one other crop a year.

The province is also researching market demand and seeking outlets for farmers so they can restructure their crop cultivation properly.

Farmers have turned about 19,000ha of ineffective rice fields to other crops under the province’s agricultural restructuring plan launched in 2014.

The province has many key agricultural products, including rice, vegetables, peanut, coconut and shrimp.

Tra Vinh has carried out many agricultural extension activities to improve income for farmers in recent years.

Last year, the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development organised 326 courses on techniques for growing crops, breeding animals and aquatic species for nearly 10,000 farmers.

The department gave instruction in effective farming models for 700 farmers last year.

In the 2020 - 22 period, the province plans to spend more than VNĐ10 billion (US$423,000) for agricultural extension activities.

The activities include providing farmers with advanced techniques to grow vegetables in net houses with automatic irrigation systems, and grow clean fruits and organic coconuts; breed chicken by using medicinal plants in their food to reduce the use of antibiotics, breed female pigs for reproducing piglets, and oxen for meat; and breed shrimp under intensive farming methods.

Truyen, director of the department, said the research, transfer and application of advanced techniques aimed to improve yield and quality of agricultural products.

It also ensured food safety, reduced production costs and increased competitiveness and effectiveness of the province’s agricultural restructuring, he said./.

 
 

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