BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES MAY 15

HCM City steps up rooftop solar power development

BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES MAY 15

Vietnam Electricity Ho Chi Minh City (EVN HCMC) on May 12 signed a memorandum of understanding on solar power development with the Bach Khoa Investment and Development of Solar Energy Corporation, the Vietnam Ecological Solutions JSC and the TTC Energy JSC.

Accordingly, EVN HCMC will partner with those providers to encourage the public to use green and clean energy at preferential costs.

EVN HCMC Deputy General Director Bui Trung Kien said the economical and effective use of energy and the sustainable development of renewable energies will help ensure energy security, reduce pollution and protect public health.

Nguyen Duc Anh from the Vietnam Ecological Solutions JSC said HCM City has great potential for rooftop solar power development, and pledged to provide the best services for customers.

After installing solar panels on roofs, households or businesses wishing to connect with the national grid or sell electricity to the power sector could contact the EVN HCMC hotline 1900545454.

According to the EVN HCMC, the city now has 6,835 rooftop solar installations with a total capacity of 88.78 MWp. Up to 30.49 million kWh has been connected to the national grid, excluding the volume consumed by owners./.

Central bank to cut benchmark interest rate

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) will adjust its benchmark interest rates from May 13 in an attempt to support an economy hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It will reduce the benchmark refinance rate to 4.5 percent per annum from 5 percent and the discount rate to 3 percent per annum from 3.5 percent, it said in Decision 918/QD-NHNN released on May 12.
The overnight lending rate in the inter-bank market will be lowered to 5.5 percent per annum from 6 percent and the open-market-operation (OMO) rate to 3.0 percent per annum from 3.5 percent.

The central bank also issued two new decisions, under which the caps on the interest rates of some types of Vietnam dong-denominated deposits and short-term loans will be reduced by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points, depending on the maturity.

The bank said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a complex development resulting in a global economic crisis and cited the fact that many foreign governments have adopted economic stimulus policies, one of which is policy rate cuts from central banks.

The rate cut is also in line with guidelines from the Government on removing difficulties for production and business operations and ensuring social welfare, it noted./.

April auto sales down nearly 40 pct. vs March

Automobile sales totalled just over 11,700 units in April, down 39 percent against March, the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA) reported on May 12.

Of the sold vehicles, more than 7,700 were passenger cars, down 40 percent, while over 3,600 were commercial vehicles and 313 were special-purpose vehicles, down 36 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Sales of domestically-assembled vehicles reached 7,400 units, down 38 percent, while sales of imported vehicles were down 40 percent to 4,361.

During the first four months of the year, VAMA members sold a total of 64,100 units, down 36 percent year-on-year. Sales of domestically-assembled and imported vehicles slumped 33 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

However, the figures were not complete, as many makers did not disclose their sales.
 
Data from VAMA and TC Motor - the representative of Hyundai Thanh Cong and not a member of VAMA - show that the best-selling car brand remained Toyota, with 2,803 units, followed by TC Motor with 2,206, Mazda with 1,329, Kia with 1,118, Mitsubishi with 876, Honda with 834, and Ford with 702.

The domestic auto market is expected to begin to recover in May if COVID-19 is brought under control, albeit at a modest rate./.

Footwear sector’s support industry should focus on new materials

To develop the support industry for the leather and footwear sector, the State should have policies to encourage the development of new materials, according to the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso).

Lefaso General Secretary Phan Thi Thanh Xuan told the Cong Thuong (Industry and Trade) newspaper that policies on developing the support industry should have incentives for enterprises to increase investments in new technology, researching and developing new materials or establishing start-ups that will create the new materials. Footwear is part of the fashion industry with non-stop changes in developing new products and a high rate of diversification.

Development of the support industry is necessary because it helps leather and footwear enterprises to actively seek material sources and attract foreign investors, she said.

According to the association, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is working with Lefaso to set up a strategy on developing the support industry for the leather and footwear industry.

The leather and footwear sector needs a suitable development strategy for its support industry, Xuan said.

The State should not apply a development strategy of the support industry for all sectors because different sectors have many different characteristics, she added.

In addition, the general development strategy of the footwear sector should focus on labour and new technology. In fact, the labour shortage could be solved by the development of machines and technology, she said.

However, most of enterprises operating in the sector are small- and medium-sized. They usually face difficulties in investing in R&D and technology due to poor capital sources and low skilled labour.

At present, the leather and footwear enterprises do not face a material shortage as it did in the first three months, she said. Their troubles are a lack of export orders. If that situation continues in the coming months, it would affect labour.

In April, the footwear sector saw a reduction of 6.6 percent in total export value to 1.3 billion USD month-on-month, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade./.

Agribank cuts lending rates for priority fields

The Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) has decided to cut interest rates for short, mid and long-term loans in five priority fields, starting from May 13.

The move is in line with the State Bank of Vietnam’s Circular No.39/2016/TT-NHNN.

Specifically, short-term lending rate stands at a maximum of 5 percent per year while mid and long-term rates are at least 7.5 percent.

It is the bank’s second interest rate reduction in less than two months in order to offer fiscal support and recover the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic./.

Indonesia reveals six monetary policies to stabilise financial system
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Bank Indonesia (BI) has been strengthening its policy mix to stabilise the rupiah, control inflation, support financial system stability and prevent a further decline in economic activities.

Indonesia announces economic recovery programme

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Bank Indonesia (BI) has been strengthening its policy mix to stabilise the rupiah, control inflation, support financial system stability and prevent a further decline in economic activities. 

BI Governor Perry Warjiyo revealed in a recent meeting that the central bank's policy mix contains six essential points.

The first is to lower its seven-day reverse repo rate twice by 25 basis points to 4.5 percent.

The second is to stabilise and strengthen the rupiah by intensifying interventions in the spot market, domestic non-delivery forward market and by buying bonds in the secondary market, he said.

The BI has also established bilateral swap and repo line cooperations with several central banks in other countries, including the US and China.

The third point in the policy mix has Bank Indonesia continuing to expand instruments and transactions in the money and foreign exchange markets by providing more hedging instruments against the rupiah through domestic non-delivery forward transactions, increasing foreign currency swap transactions and providing term repo for banking needs.

The fourth point has the central bank injecting massive quantitative easing into the financial market and banks to encourage financing for businesses and kickstart a recovery of the national economy.

The fifth in the policy mix is to release macro-prudential policies to encourage banks to finance businesses through reducing loan-to-value ratio provisions, macroprudential intermediation ratio (RIM) and lowering the rupiah statutory reserve requirement for business financing – especially for export-import operators and MSMEs – to counter the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

To ease payment constraints for both cash and non-cash payment systems to encourage more economic and financial transactions is the last point./.

Cambodia resumes rice exports

The Cambodian government has allowed companies to resume exporting rice from next week, after banning it for more than a month to ensure the country's food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision was made on May 13 at the request of the Cambodia Rice Federation after the Southeast Asian country has detected no new COVID-19 cases for a month.

According to Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, the government decided to allow the resumption of white rice exports based on purchase orders from abroad, starting from May 20 onwards.

The government also encouraged factories to produce face masks, medical supplies, and personal protective equipment for local demand and export, he added.
               
In the first four months of this year, Cambodia exported over 300,000 tonnes of rice, a year-on-year rise of 40.5 percent.

The Cambodian Health Ministry reported that the country has so far recorded 122 COVID-19 infection cases, with 121 patients recovered./.

Long An breeds brackish-water shrimp

The Mekong Delta province of Long An plans to invest more than 1.24 trillion VND (53 million USD) to develop brackish water shrimp cultivation in the 2020-25 period, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

During the period, the province will use 588 billion VND (25 million USD) from the central Government budget to upgrade infrastructure for shrimp fry production and pilot shrimp breeding areas and specialised shrimp breeding areas.

The province will also use 33 billion VND (1.4 million USD) from its budget to monitor the environment and disease, transfer breeding techniques, and promote shrimp trade.

The province also seeks 624 billion VND (26.6 million USD) from breeders and investors for pond infrastructure, shrimp fry and shrimp food purchases, and shrimp breeding facilities.

Specialised shrimp breeding areas in Can Duoc, Can Giuoc, Tan Tru and Chau Thanh districts will be set up.

The province plans to have 6,800ha of brackish water shrimp, including 200 ha of hi-tech breeding areas, with an annual output of 15,000 tonnes this year.

Dinh Thi Phuong Khanh, deputy director of the department, said the province would apply advanced breeding techniques to increase yield, protect the environment, and develop shrimp cultivation sustainably.

The province will cooperate with research institutes, universities and companies to apply advanced breeding technologies for high-quality fry.

Advanced breeding technologies like biofloc technology and two-stage shrimp breeding technology will be applied to manage water quality.

Under this type of breeding, juvenile shrimp are first bred in a nursery pond for a few weeks before being moved to the main pond. The beds of ponds are covered with plastic sheets and the surfaces of the ponds are covered with anti-sunshine nets.

The ponds are also equipped with fans and pumps to generate oxygen for the water. Wastewater released from the ponds is treated thoroughly to avoid contaminating the surrounding environment.

Advanced breeding technologies can help farmers breed three to four shrimp crops a year, increasing output on the same farming area.

Shrimp will be bred under Vietnamese and global good agricultural practices (VietGAP and GlobalGAP) standards and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards. The province will grant a code for each qualified shrimp breeding pond for traceability to serve export requirements.

Shrimp farmers are encouraged to join co-operative groups and co-operatives to link with companies in shrimp production and consumption. Companies will supply shrimp fry, feed, and breeding techniques for farmers and guarantee outlets for them.

The province targets having nine advanced shrimp breeding areas with a total of 500ha by 2025./.

PPP law necessary amid increasing demand for resources: Seminar

Delegates at a video seminar in Hanoi on May 13 shared views on the significance of the draft public-private partnership (PPP) law in the context of increasing demand for resources and limited State budget funds.

They believe Vietnam has great potential for PPP projects, especially in the fields of energy, transport, and infrastructure.

Vu Tien Loc, Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said building the PPP law is a difficult task but it is necessary for economic recovery post-COVID-19.

According to Pham Ngoc Lam, deputy head of the economic bureau at the National Assembly Office, the draft law has now gone through many rounds and opinions have been collected.

Dao Viet Dung from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said development funds are needed to facilitate the implementation of PPP projects, particularly large-scale projects, and the building of such funds must be transparent.

He also called for more specific stipulations regarding risk sharing mechanisms, to help increase information access for investors.

Nguyen Thanh Hai from the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, said the draft law should not restrict the rights of investors to transfer all shares after project construction is completed.

Lam, who represented the law drafting group, said many opinions sent to the compilation board concern mechanisms on the sharing of risks and turnover increases and decreases prescribed in the draft law, saying they are too strict and more favourable for the public sector.

They also proposed expanding investment fields, explaining that new fields requiring the PPP model may emerge during the participation of the private sector.

Investors should also be allowed to determine the domestic or foreign contractors and subcontractors for their projects, they said.

Most opinions believe regulations regarding the completion of financial arrangements within 12 months from the signing of PPP contracts are not suitable.

The video seminar was jointly held by VCCI, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the US Agency for International Development./.

Petrol prices rise after eight cuts

Retail petrol prices were adjusted upwards on May 13 in the latest review by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Finance after being cut eight times in succession this year.

From 3pm on May 13 the price of E5 RON92 biofuel rose 578 VND to a maximum of 11,520 VND (0.49 USD) per litre and RON95-III by 604 VND to 12,235 VND per litre.

Prices of diesel 0.05S and kerosene, meanwhile, are now 9,857 VND and 7,882 VND per litre, down 84 VND and 83 VND per litre, respectively.

Mazut 180CST 3.5S is now selling for 8,545 VND per kg, down 125 VND per kg.

The adjustments aim to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily life, production, and business.

The two ministries review fuel prices every 15 days and make adjustments in accordance with fluctuations in the global market./.

New components added to 2nd phase of HCM City environmental sanitation project

The HCM City People’s Committee has approved in-principle to add new components to the second phase of its environmental sanitation project.

The additional components aim to develop a closed process of treating the city’s sewage and waste mud and prevent odors from the waste from entering nearby neighbourhoods.

They will be invested around 78 million USD, a surplus fund made available after the project is underbid which has total investment of 504 million USD.

The second phase of the HCM City Environmental Sanitation Project, which began in 2017, focuses on improving wastewater services for the entire Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Basin. It is planned for completion by 2023.

The project involves the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Thanh My Loi Ward, District 2, and a 8km sewer interceptor which will collect wastewater from Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canal in the districts of Binh Thanh, Go Vap, Tan Binh, Phu Nhuan, 1, 2 and 3 then discharge into the Dong Nai River.

The water treatment facility is designed to have a daily capacity of 480,000 cu.m. Once completed, wastewater from the basin will be treated by the plant instead of being discharged directly into the Sai Gon River./.

HNX-listed firms see post-tax profits up 4.8 percent in 2019

Listed companies on the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) reported their post-tax profits grew 4.8 percent year-on-year to reach 21.4 trillion VND (912.86 million USD) in 2019.

According to the northern market regulator, as of the end of April this year, 346 out of the total 359 companies on the HNX had released their 2019 audited financial statements.

Among the 346 reporting firms, 311 made profits with a total profit value of 23.7 trillion VND, up 10.06 percent year-on-year.

On a sector basis, five out of 11 sectors report profits in 2019, higher than the number of profitable sectors in 2018. Of the sectors, the oil and gas one posted the highest post-tax profit growth rate of 45.2 percent, from 808 billion VND to 1.17 trillion VND.

Ranking second was the financial sector, with only 22 enterprises listed on the HNX, reporting post-tax profit growth rate of 17.3 percent, reaching 10.4 billion VND, accounting for 48.7 percent of the total profit of the whole market.

The growth is attributed to expanding business operations, diversifying products and services, and attracting more customers. Among this group, banking and insurance businesses witnessed the strongest growth.

In the opposite direction, 36 companies reported losses, up 12.5 percent over the previous year, with a total loss value in 2019 of negative 2.24 trillion VND, up 109 percent compared to 2018.

Six out of 11 industries reported higher losses compared to 2018, in which the industrial sector saw the highest loss from negative 427 billion VND in 2018 to negative 1.27 trillion VND in 2019.

Companies who published their audited financial statements five days, or more, later than the required date, have been made ineligible for margin lending and those who delay for over 15 days will be included in the warning list of HNX./.

Vietnam seeks to export fresh fruits, vegetables to Thailand

Vietnamese fruit and vegetable exporters are seeking to make inroads into Thailand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Vietnam Fruit & Vegetable Association (VinaFruit), exports to the US, Thailand and Africa saw positive signs last year.

Vietnam exported 74.94 million USD worth of fruits and vegetables to Thailand in 2019, up 66.3 percent compared to the previous year.

Secretary General of VinaFruit Dang Phuc Nguyen suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should negotiate with the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to balance trade for fruits and vegetables because Vietnam has long been running a trade deficit for farm produce from Thailand.

The ministry should ask Thailand to expand the list of fruits for importing from Vietnam, he recommended.

Businesses are advised to study the market thoroughly while proactively seeking customers and expanding trade links.

According to the Vietnamese Trade Office in Thailand, Thailand spends over 1 billion USD annually to import fresh fruits and 600 million USD to buy vegetables.

In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand is the biggest importer of farm produce, especially Vietnamese fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We should consider Thailand a trade partner instead of a competitive opponent,” said Vietnamese Trade Counsellor in Thailand Tran Thi Thanh My.

Vietnam has exported a large amount of farm produce to the market, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, she said.

She cited statistics from Thai Customs as saying that Vietnam makes up 90 percent of Thailand’s dragon fruit imports.

 

So far, Thailand has only allowed imports of Vietnamese dragon fruit, mango, longan, and lychee.

There are still enormous opportunities for Vietnam to increase exports of other farm produce, she added.

Meanwhile, Vice President of Thailand’s Central Retail Paul Le said Vietnam has a lot of tasty fruits.

The company wants to boost imports of Vietnamese fresh fruits and vegetables, especially lychees.

The Vietnamese goods week is held in Thailand annually to help Vietnamese firms to study the market and local customers’ demand, he said.

He added that the large overseas Vietnamese community in Thailand is also an advantage Vietnam can use to penetrate the market./.

SBV’s policy rate cut a positive sign for market, economy: experts

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s interest rate cut is a positive sign for the market and economy, especially for businesses with loans, according to experts.

Finance specialist Nguyen Tri Hieu said through the adjustment, the central bank will partly support banks in terms of capital. Meanwhile, the cut also affects commercial banks and financial institutions’ interest and loan rates, mainly on accounts with terms of less than 6 months.

Echoing the view, banking expert Le Xuan Nghia said that in addition to the delay of loan payments, reducing interest rates is vital to helping businesses and the economy recover.

Head of the SBV’s Monetary Policy Department Pham Thanh Ha added that the move will create favourable conditions for credit institutions to sustainably reduce their rates, thereby easing the burden on the economy.

The adjustment was in line with evaluations of the global market, as many central banks worldwide have taken similar measures to navigate economies through the crisis brought about by COVID-19, he noted.

By May 13, most of the commercial banks in Vietnam had lowered their interest rates on savings accounts with terms of less than 6 months, which previously stood at between 3.9 – 4.75 percent per annum.

The central bank will keep a close eye on domestic and foreign market developments to actively and flexibly adjust monetary policies in an attempt to curb inflation, stabilise the macro-economy and ensure liquidity and safe operations of credit institutes.

The SBV on May 12 decided to cut lending and discount rates, with annual refinancing rates coming down to 4.5 percent from 5 percent and discount rates to 3 percent from 3.5 percent.

Ceiling rates on deposits of one to six months are brought down to 4.25 percent per annum from 4.75 percent, and rates for non-term deposits and those below one month, to 0.2 percent from 0.5 percent.

Short-term lending rates for five priority business sectors are down to 5 percent from 5.5 percent per annum under the decision./.

Viglacera presents 100 tonnes of rice to Cuban medical staff

Cuban Ambassador to Vietnam Lianys Torres Rivera has received 100 tonnes of rice from Deputy General Director of the Viglacera Corporation Tran Ngoc Anh.

The rice is a gift from Viglacera’s Vimariel S.A company based at the Mariel special economic zone in Cuba for frontline medical staff fighting COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Anh said the gift reflects the solidarity with and appreciation of Cuba’s medical workers in the fight.

Ambassador Torres, for her part, said Vietnam always joins together with the Cuban people at difficult moments, and the Cuban people were also delighted with the gift of 5,000 tonnes rice presented recently by the Vietnamese Party, State, and people.

She expressed her belief that with international solidarity and ceaseless efforts by the two countries’ political systems and authorities, Vietnam and Cuba will defeat the pandemic and move forward./.

Bamboo Airways permitted to operate direct flights to Japan

Bamboo Airways will fly directly between Vietnam and Japan from May 20.

The Vietnamese carrier has secured permission from Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to operate seven flights a week on each of three routes: HCM City - Tokyo Narita, HCM City - Osaka, and Hanoi - Osaka.

The carrier has, however, postponed the launch of these services because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bamboo Airways Deputy General Director Truong Phuong Thanh said.

It initially planned to launch its first flight on the routes in May but the pandemic has dampened demand and created problems for the carrier’s preparations, he said.

Bamboo will work with agencies in Japan and tour operators to restart services once the market rebounds and all necessary conditions have been met, he added.

Thanh also revealed that new-generation B787-9 Dreamliner and A321neo aircraft will be used on the routes.

He also spoke highly of the potential of the Japanese market, saying that the number of Japanese tourists to Vietnam has been on the rise for a decade, growing 8 to 10 percent annually.

Close to 1.45 million people travelled between Vietnam and Japan last year, an increase of 18.9 percent against 2018. Of these, 495,000 were Vietnamese, up 27.3 percent, while 952,000 were Japanese, up 15.2 percent.

About 370,000 Vietnamese people are living in Japan - its third-largest community of foreigners, after Chinese and South Koreans, he noted./.

SBV interest rate cuts to allay economic difficulties

Interest rate cuts by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and cost savings among credit institutions will pave the way for sustainable lending rate reductions, thus easing difficulties faced by businesses.

Head of the SBV’s Monetary Policy Department Pham Thanh Ha said the latest interest rate adjustment is in compliance with the Prime Minister’s Directive No. 11/CT-TTg dated March 4 and Decision No. 15/2020/QD-TTg dated April 24, as well as Government Resolution No. 41/NQ-CP dated April 9.

He said the SBV advocates ensuring liquidity for credit institutions and reducing interest rates after considering macro-economic factors, inflation targets, and the operating safety of credit institutions.

The central bank will continue to closely monitor domestic and foreign market developments to actively and flexibly adjust monetary policies, thus controlling inflation and propelling economic growth.

On May 12, the SBV decided to cut lending and discount rates, with annual refinancing rates coming down from 5 percent to 4.5 percent and discount rates from 3.5 percent to 3 percent.

Ceiling rates on deposits of one to six months fell to 4.25 percent per annum from 4.75 percent, while rates for non-term deposits and those below one month fell from 0.5 percent to 0.2 percent.

Short-term lending rates for five priority business sectors went down from 5.5 percent to 5 percent per annum./.

Bac Lieu attracts lion’s share of FDI capital in first four months

The southern province of Bac Lieu topped the country in attracting foreign investment in the first four months of 2020 with a single project worth 4 billion USD producing electricity from LNG, the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) has reported.

The 3,200MW plant, invested by Singapore’s Delta Offshore Energy Pte.Ltd, will have four turbines of 750MW each and one with a capacity of 200MW, the former to go on stream at the end of 2023 and the latter in 2027.It is expected to create thousands of jobs and contribute more than 3 trillion VND (129.6 million USD) a year to the State budget.

Bac Lieu was followed by the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, with 1.9 billion USD and Ho Chi Minh City, with 1.31 billion USD.

In the period, Vietnam attracted a total of 12.33 billion USD in FDI, a year-on-year decrease of 15.5 percent due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figure, however, was much higher than that of the same period of 2018 and 2017 with 5.8 billion USD and 9.2 billion USD, respectively, the FIA said.

Singapore was the country’s largest source of FDI with 5.07 billion USD in committed investment, accounting for 41 percent. Thailand and Japan were the runners-up with 1.46 billion USD and 1.16 billion USD, respectively, followed by mainland China, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea.

Foreign investors pledged to pour capital in 18 sectors, with manufacturing and processing receiving nearly 6 billion USD, accounting for 48.4 percent of the total capital. It was followed by power production and distribution (3.9 billion USD); wholesale and retail (776 million USD); and real estate (665 million USD), the FIA said.

According to the agency, FDI disbursement reached 5.15 billion USD in the four months or equivalent to 90.4 percent of the last year’s corresponding period./.

More IZs focusing on environmental protection

A number of industrial zones (IZs) around Vietnam now possess concentrated waste treatment systems that contribute to mitigating environmental pollution, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has reported.

The country is now home to 375 IZs on a total area of nearly 97,800 ha, of which 280 are in operation and home to 9,114 domestic and 9,022 foreign-invested projects.

Deputy head of the National Assembly (NA)’s Committee on Science, Technology and Environment Tran Van Minh said that as of February, there were 14 decrees from the Government, 17 decisions from the Prime Minister, 54 circulars and joint circulars, and 48 national technical standards relating to the environment.

Local authorities have also issued a raft of legal documents on environmental protection at IZs. Twenty-nine localities nationwide have also issued cooperative mechanisms on State management at IZs and industrial clusters as well as eight local standards.

Of the 280 operational IZs, 250 or 89.28 percent have concentrated wastewater treatment systems.

All IZs have conducted environmental impact assessments and formulated detailed environmental protection schemes. As many as 219 zones have installed automated wastewater monitoring systems. The wastewater treatment facilities in the IZs can treat more than 1 million cu.m each day.

In accordance with Decree No. 82/ND-CP, several IZs have switched to ecological models meeting international standards, attracting high-tech, eco-friendly industrial production and service projects.

Four IZs nationwide are piloting ecological models - Khanh Phu and Gian Khau in the northern province of Ninh Binh, Hoa Khanh in the central city of Da Nang, and Tra Noc in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

From 2015-2019, ministries and authorities in cities and provinces imposed fines totalling 301 billion VND (13 million USD) on more than 4,600 establishments, including IZs, for legal violations in environmental protection./.

Thailand: Sugar makers warn of output cut due to drought

Sugar makers in Thailand have warned that another drought could significantly cut into sugar output in the 2020-2021 crop, according to local media.

President of the Thai Sugar Millers Corporation (TSMC) public relations working group Siriwut Siempakdi said the industry must brace for the next drought. If the sugar-cane production area in northeastern Thailand sees lower-than-normal rainfall during the wet season, the 2020-21 crop could experience record lows in output.

TSMC statistics showed sugar-cane output was 74.9 million tonnes in the last crop year (2019-20), resulting in 8.27 million tonnes of sugar.

Siriwut noted that last crop year, the drought crisis affected the sugar-cane industry globally and it increased global sugar prices up to 15 US cents per pound, but this year Brazil plans to increase sugar exports.  

TSMC has closely monitored Brazil to see if the country will cause sugar prices to decline by redirecting some of its production towards biofuels, he said.

The price of sugar in the world market dropped from 15 cents per pound to 11.09 cents earlier this year. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected oil demand, causing Brazil to delay transitioning some of its sugar production to biofuels.

Those factors will affect the sugar-cane and sugar mill industry in Thailand, and TSMC expects it will be another hard year for the industry, according to Siriwut.

Thailand is the world's fourth-largest sugar producer and second-largest exporter, after Brazil.

The country has a total 57 sugar mills with a capacity of 984,000 tonnes per day, supplied by 18,240 sq.km of sugar-cane plantations across 47 provinces./.

Đồng Tháp rice farmers switch to other higher value crops

The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Đồng Tháp has switched to growing other crops this year on 3,570ha of unproductive rice fields, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Farmers have either stopped growing rice on these lands or grow it only in the rainy season, preferring other short-term crops during other months.  

The other crops include fruits, sesame, corn, sweet potato, red chilli, and lotus. 

Huỳnh Tấn Đạt, deputy director of the department, said the switch has helped reduce water use, improve soil fertility and prevent the spread of rice diseases.

Under the province’s agriculture restructuring plan, the department encourages farmers to make the switch to eliminate the rice monoculture and improve farmers’ incomes.

Vegetables and other short-term crops yield two or three times the income from rice, while for fruits it is three to eight times, according to the department.

Nguyễn Văn Mười of Thanh Bình District’s Tân Mỹ Commune did not grow the winter-spring rice crop in 2019–20 in his one-hectare field and instead grew lotus.

After two and a half months, he harvested eight tonnes of lotus seed pods and earned nearly VNĐ100 million (US$4,300), or almost three times what he would have earned from rice, he said.

This summer-autumn, many farmers have switched to sesame in drought-prone areas since there is a lack of irrigation water due to salinity in rivers.

Lê Văn Chiến of Hồng Ngự District’s Thường Phước 1 Commune said he has been growing two rice crops and one sesame crop a year on his one-hectare field for the last five years.

Sesame grows better than rice in hot weather and without much water, he said.

This year, sesame farmers have had a bumper summer-autumn crop and good prices.

In Hồng Ngự District, sesame farmers got yields of more than a tonne per hectare and prices of VNĐ50,000 ($2.1) a kilogramme, up VNĐ10,000-15,000 from past years.

Sesame fetches farmers incomes of VNĐ30-35 million ($1,300-1,500) per hectare.

Đạt, deputy director of the department, said it is a drought-resistant crop, which the province has planted on more than 2,600ha, mostly in Lấp Vò, Cao Lãnh and Đồng Tháp districts.

Increasingly, local farmers are adopting advanced techniques to improve yields and quality besides linking up with companies to ensure they can sell their produce.

Additional income

Besides switching to growing lotus from rice, many farmers also welcome tourists who come to admire their lotus flowers to earn an additional income.

Đồng Tháp is renowned nationwide for its beautiful lotus growing areas.

To augment their services, farmers build bridges and offer boats and other facilities so that visitors can go around their lotus fields and take photos.

Nguyễn Văn Thuận of Tháp Mười District’s Trường Xuân Commune has turned his 10ha rice field into a lotus pond since last year and earns VNĐ50 million ($2,100) per hectare annually.

This year, he has been investing in setting up more tourism facilities, including food.

Mai Thị Hoa of Hồng Ngự District’s Tân Hội Commune receives around 100 visitors a day who come to her lotus field to rest and take photos.

She charges entrance fees of VNĐ10,000 for adults and VNĐ5,000 for children and could also sell 100 kilogrammes of fresh lotus seed pods at VNĐ20,000 each to the visitors, she said.

Previously, she used to sell to traders at a price of VNĐ8,000, she said. 

Vinacas tells cashew enterprises to trade carefully

The Viet Nam Cashew Association (Vinacas) recommends cashew processing enterprises remain calm and try not to sell off their products to avoid potential losses.

A representative of the association said: "There are more demands for the nuts, but exporters should be careful in trading."

Vinacas thinks though the pandemic has been controlled in China, it was still not yet under control in many countries and territories around the world, especially the US and Europe, which are traditional cashew export markets of Viet Nam and where customers are requesting early delivery due to fears global freight may be in trouble.

According to the association, in the United States and the EU, restricted travel has led to an increasing demand for essential food reserves, including processed cashew nuts. Especially, in the EU, importers were looking to buy goods to store because of the concern that the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa will affect the supply of raw cashew nuts for Viet Nam and India.

At the same time, India is still greatly affected by the pandemic. According to the Indian Cashew Industry Federation, about 15,000 tons of raw cashew nuts are in stock at processing plants across the country due to the blockade.

As a result, some customers now require Vietnamese factories to deliver the nuts as quickly as possible due to concerns that global cargo transportation may be in difficulty, raising freight rates.

However, Vinacas tells local processing plants to be careful in trading their products, suggesting they import raw nuts if there is a suitable price.

Vinacas added: “Cashew processing enterprises should not sign future contracts if they cannot buy raw cashew nuts at good prices, because when the pandemic is under control, the prices may increase again.”

The association also mentions the high risk of buying raw cashew nuts from Africa without having a contract for their processed nuts or having a plan to resell the materials.

Instead, it advises plants to purchase raw cashew nuts in the country in order to contribute to the maintenance and development of local raw material areas.

Local cashew processing plants need to closely monitor market developments and should also have a plan for 2021, says the association.

Before the pandemic, the Vietnamese cashew industry aimed to export US$4 billion in 2020. As the pandemic hit the price of cashew nut exports, the industry adjusted its export plan to $3 billion. 

Vietnam Airlines to open more domestic flights this month

National carrier Vietnam Airlines will open five more domestic routes from this month, with fares from VND99,000 (US$4.2) per way.

These additional routes aim to meet the increasing travel needs as the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control and social distancing measures are eased. It is expected to stimulate tourism demand before the peak summer period, responding to the campaign ‘Vietnamese people travel in Viet Nam’ launched by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The additional routes include HCM City–Tuy Hoa, which will be opened from May 16, with a frequency of one round trip per day; Hai Phong–Nha Trang, and Vinh – Da Lat, from May 20 and May 19 respectively, with three return flights per week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday each.

Vietnam Airlines said the airfare of VND99,000 per way (price including taxes and fees is VND579,000) applies for passengers who buy tickets on the carrier’s website or mobile app from May 13 to June 30 this year, for flights until June 30.

Customers who buy tickets through the ticket office or agents will pay VND109,000 per way (price including taxes and fees is VND590,000).

To ensure safety for passengers and the community, Vietnam Airlines still maintains disinfection spraying of the entire fleet operated on the day, while implementing measures to check passengers’ health at the airports according to regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam.

The flight crew, consisting of pilots and flight attendants, are equipped with masks, gloves, eyeglasses and alcohol-wipes. Passengers traveling on the plane during this time are required to wear a mask during the flight. 

 
 

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