Drought and salinity rock Vietnam's economy in first half of 2016

By    June 30, 2016 | 12:26 pm GMT+7

Vietnam's economy slowed in the first half of 2016 after a historic drought took a heavy toll on the country’s agricultural sector, while mass fish deaths along the central coastal provinces added to economic losses.

Vietnam’s gross domestic product growth dropped to an estimated 5.52 percent in the first six months while the figure for the same period last year was 6.32 percent, the government's statistics office said.

The country’s economy grew a total 6.68 percent in 2015, the fastest pace since 2007, due mainly to strong commodity exports and record foreign investment in the manufacturing sector.

"World commodity prices remain low, trade and global investment lack driving forces, capital flows are declining and the unpredictable upheavals in the world financial and monetary markets have badly affected our economy," said the General Statistics Office in a report.

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A huge number of dead fish washed up in central Vietnam two months ago. Photo by AFP

The agriculture sector took a huge hit from the worst drought and saltwater intrusion in nearly a century, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, adding that the sector recorded negative growth of 0.18 percent during the first half of the year.

Adverse weather conditions slammed Vietnamese rice and coffee plantations and cost the country $681 million, according to the statistics office.

Despite slowing production, Vietnam’s agriculture product exports during January – June edged up 5.4 percent on-year to reach $15.04 billion.

Vietnam is recognized as one of the world’s top exporters of agricultural products, especially rice and coffee.

The Vietnamese economy suffered another hit from massive fish deaths along the country's central coast that has yet to be fully explained.

"Drought and serious salinity in the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta as well as massive fish deaths in the central coastal region have had a huge impact on the people's production and lives," the statistics office said.

Farms in Ha Tinh Province, 400 kilometers south of Hanoi, began to see fish dying on April 6 and more dead fish washed up on beaches.

A spate of dead fish subsequently were seen along a stretch of some 200 kilometers on Vietnam's central coast in the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

The Agriculture Ministry said the four provinces have all recorded declining coastal fisheries in the first six months of this year. Specifically, fishermen in Ha Tinh Province have caught six percent less fish, Quang Binh 8.7 percent, Quang Tri 14.3 percent and Thua Thien-Hue nearly 30 percent.

The disaster, which lasted for about three weeks, has devastated local fishermen and hit tourism in the area.

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