Vietnam's agriculture sector rebounds after facing extreme headwinds

By VnExpress   December 26, 2016 | 11:55 pm PT
Vietnam's agriculture sector rebounds after facing extreme headwinds
A market in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
The much-needed recovery came after the sector contracted in the first half of the year, on the heels of a devastating drought.

The agriculture sector has survived a bad year with a surprise growth of 1.2 percent, after extreme weather and a toxic spill disaster wreaked havoc on farmers across Vietnam.

It has been "a difficult year," said Nguyen Xuan Cuong, the agriculture minister.

"Extreme weather took place in every quarter," he said, pointing out that the sector actually contracted in the first six months before recovering in the second half. Last year it grew 2.4 percent, compared to 2014.

Right at the beginning of the year, a historic cold spell hit northern provinces, killing more than 12,000 cattle heads. Then came the most severe drought in almost a century, which caused losses of VND15 trillion ($669 million) to farmers in the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands.

“Heavy losses from natural disasters, combined with the mass fish deaths in four central coastal provinces, had caused the agriculture sector to contract by 0.18 percent in the first six months,” Cuong said.

The country managed to boost shipments of agricultural products in the second half, bringing the sector's exports this year to $32.1 billion, up 6 percent from 2015.

Fruit and vegetables, for the first time, overcame rice to become the biggest earner for the sector, with shipments soaring 31 percent to around 2.4 billion. Exports of coffee, cashew nuts and pepper all recorded double-digit increases.

Vietnam's agriculture sector aims to achieve a growth rate of 2.5-2.8 percent next year. Officials said the country will focus on modernizing farming, after the government agreed to grant loans worth VND60 trillion ($2.6 billion) in total to high-tech projects.

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