Processing seafood for export at Can Tho Import Export Seafood Joint Stock Company (CASEAMEX). (Photo: QUOC TUAN)
NDO - According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the first seven months of 2021, the country's agricultural, forestry and fishery export turnover was estimated at US$28.6 billion, up 26.7% year on year. However, in July alone, export turnover is estimated at US$4.2 billion, down 9.5% compared to the previous month. The Covid-19 epidemic that appeared and spread in many key agricultural provinces and cities from the beginning of July is posing a big challenge to growth in the last months of the year.
Difficulties piling up
According to Nguyen Dinh Tung, Chairman of the Board of Directors, General Director of Vina T&T Import-Export Trading Service Co., Ltd., the company is currently exporting fruits such as coconut, durian, longan, dragon fruit, and mango to the US, Canada, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
In the first six months of 2021, the company's export value grew by 15% over the same period in 2020. However, since the Covid-19 epidemic broke out in the southern provinces and cities, that situation has reversed. The cost to export containers to the US is increasing rapidly compared to before the outbreak, from US$1,800 per container, now up to US$9,600 to US$17,000 per container depending on the destination in the US.
Another existing difficulty is that shipping lines are limited; some will not transport refrigerated goods, vegetables and fruits. The reason is that the shipping price of cold goods is the same as that of dry goods, but the risk is much higher in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. That can damage businesses that export fresh produce, such as fruit.
In addition, in raw material areas, farmers are also very confused as they do not know how long the epidemic will last, whether products can be sold, so many households are not interested in taking care of plants, leading to a risk of a shortage of quality raw materials for export.
Agricultural enterprises are facing a lot of difficulties, General Director Tung said..
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has also slowed the growth of seafood exports, with seafood export turnover in July 2021 only reaching US$763 million, down 4% over the same period in 2020.
According to Truong Dinh Hoe, General Secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), with the implementation of social distancing measures under Directive 16/CT-TTg in 19 southern provinces and cities, most local authorities have asked businesses to only maintain operations under the "three-on-the-spot" plan to prevent and control the epidemic from spreading into factories and industrial parks. However, in fact, only about 30% of seafood enterprises can ensure this condition is followed. With factories that ensure the condition, the number of workers that can be mobilised is only 30 - 50%; average production capacity has reduced to 40 - 50% as compared to normal.
It is estimated that the overall capacity of the whole region will decrease to only 30-40% of that previously. Therefore, seafood exports are facing the risk of both a shortage of raw materials and production workers, unable to meet signed orders.
Rice production in the first seven months of 2021 also recorded a decrease, reaching nearly 3.6 million tonnes, worth US$1.937 billion, down 10.6% in volume and 0.6% in value compared to the same period in 2020.
Boosting production for exports
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tran Thanh Nam said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has sent a report to the Prime Minister, asking the Government to direct 19 southern provinces and cities to prioritize Covid-19 vaccination for 100% of the workers in agro-fishery, livestock and poultry processing factories, currently conduting the "three on the spot" method as well as production facilities associated with the factories in the value chain.
Through surveying some factories, the number of workers maintaining production is large, but only about 30-40% of them have been vaccinated, so the risk of disease is very high. This workforce directly ensures the long-term supply of food for domestic consumption and export.
In addition, the MARD has also proposed a programme to expand loan quotas to purchase agricultural products and materials according for priority areas for capable production facilities, agricultural and food processing enterprises. At the same time, the ministry has also proposed the Government support production electricity prices for agricultural and seafood processing enterprises to increase the purchase of frozen preserved products.
Process of pineapple selection and preliminary processing of pineapples at the Dong Giao Foodstuff Export Joint Stock Company (Doveco) factory, Ninh Binh province. (Photo: Khuong Luc)
It can be seen that agricultural production in the southern provinces is currently facing many difficulties due to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is expected that in the last months of 2021, the supply of agricultural products and food for export will decrease sharply as many raw material areas have applied social distancing measures; with harvest and production thereby affected.
The situation of plants not being cared for, a lack of agricultural materials, and poor grower psychology is leading to a lack of high quality products for export.
Accordingly, fruit and vegetable exports in the last months of the year may decrease by about 30%. For seafood, the VASEP also said that under the best conditions, if the epidemic is controlled in three months, seafood exports in 2021 can reach the target of US$9 billion. In a worse situation, where the epidemic continues for a long time and China strengthens its control of frozen seafood imported from ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, seafood exports can only reach a maximum of about US$8.8 billion.
The situation of seafood production in the last months of the year is highly dependent on the operating capacity of processing factories.
However, Deputy Minister Tran Thanh Nam emphasised: From now to the end of 2021, the agricultural sector must both ensure the prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic, but also maintain and restore agricultural production, avoiding disrupting the supply chains of agricultural products and food, ensuring domestic demand is satisfied and a large amount of goods for export are produced in order to maintain the growth momentum of the whole industry.
Translated by NDO
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