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close this bookCERES No. 114 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)
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New directions for vietnamese agriculture

by TrDuc

Viet Nam has been an agricultural country for thousands of years, and recently new trends have appeared in farming practices. This article proposes to examine both the structure of agricultural production and the technical and scientific efforts made in this sector of the economy.

The experience of other countries has shown that, generally speaking, a structural revolution in agriculture gives a boost to production. Viet Nam began by replacing spring rice crops by winter crops, thus increasing rice yields by two to three metric tons per hectare and making it possible to apply new cropping methods (azolla followed by spring rice, intensification of market garden crops and secondary cereals, promoting the cultivation of export crops). This radical change in food crop cultivation stems from the need to improve the nation's diet. At the present time, the daily food intake of our people consists of about 48 grams of protein and 23 grams of fats, amounting to a total of 2 000 calories. In the immediate future our efforts will be concentrated on the overall calorie intake (essential food intake) before diversifying the diet and integrating it with amino acids (rational food intake).

In recent years our country's annual food production has reached 16-17 million metric tons. In addition to rice and the other cereal products, efforts are being made to develop our bean production. In the past, the area under beans was much smaller than that of other food crops, but from now on this crop will be playing an important role in improving the people's diet.

It will take several five-year plans before we can reach the rational consumption level of meat, eggs, and milk. We are also counting on increasing fish production to improve the quality of our meals. In the long term, cereals will gradually be replaced by a rational proportion of vegetable and animal protein.

Plans for the development of industrial crops include improving the entire perennial and annual plant production. In dealing with annual industrial crops, a distinction must be made between those grown extensively (e.g., groundnuts, tobacco) and those cultivated on limited areas (e.g., jute, rushes). For perennials, priority is given to crops which are most appreciated on world markets, such as tea, coffee, or hevea. In the years to come our efforts will be concentrated on improving the production of annuals in order to obtain the capital required for expanding perennial crops.

Appropriate cropping techniques must be selected for each category of crops. For example, groundnut production must mainly be left to farm cooperatives and family concerns; hevea and coffee production, requiring fairly heavy investments, will be carried out on state farms and in farm cooperatives. The time it takes for development to become effective depends on our ability to solve both the population's food supply problem and that of our cooperation with other countries.

For animal husbandry to become more economically important, a reform must be undertaken in animal feeding. This reform will be speeded up as soon as we have solved the food problem for our people, in which maize will play an important role. For the time being, maize yields are still very low, about 1.2 tons per hectare. We expect to bring them up to three and even four tons over several successive five-year plans. We are also concentrating on the production of soya, which in recent years has reached between 60 000 and 70 000 tons. In future, after we have reached the target of several hundred thousand tons, we have reason to believe that the "white revolution" will begin with soya and that our people will be drinking more vegetable milk than animal milk.

Pig raising is developing fast in a densely populated rural world in areas where rice is grown. There were 10 million pigs in 1981,13 million in 1985, mainly raised on family farms. The cattle population was 4.15 million in 1981 and 5.2 million in 1985. Up to the year 2000, buffalo will continue to be an essential source of wealth.

Poultry breeding and pisciculture have been popularized. Fish breeding is practised in flooded rice fields and water courses and will be encouraged in our numerous ponds and pools.

Handicrafts are flourishing in several rural localities. In 1982, the sector included 1.6 million craftsmen with fixed funds of 1.6 billion dong. This sector contributes to the development of agricultural products and can supplement farmers' incomes. We hope it will gradually be possible to separate the handicrafts sector from agriculture and create artisans' cooperatives. For a certain number of important products (such as ones with a high export value), it will soon be possible to modernize production with a view to improving quality. In order to develop the handicrafts sector it is, of course, important to adopt judicious policies on investment, credit, farming techniques, and human diet.

In our country, these structural revolutions do not progress along separate roads but are closely coordinated in each region. Let us consider the example of the Red River delta. Since the early 1950s, the "brown revolution" has distributed the land to the farmers; it was followed by the "blue revolution", which brought irrigation and drainage to the rice fields. At the end of the 1950s the "red revolution" modified agriculture on the road to socialism; in the mid-1960s came the "green revolution", and in the early 1980s the "red revolution" was resumed with the adoption of a global agricultural contract. The scientific and technological revolution is aimed at arousing awareness and a sense of responsibility in farmers, while the purpose of the productive revolution is to improve their management ability and to form the social basis for the socialist revolution.

The scientific and technical revolution first of all calls for the mechanization of agricultural techniques. In a fairly densely populated country (180 inhabitants/km)... for an area of 32 536 000 hectares, and with a surplus labour force, the initial goal of the scientific and technical revolution must be to achieve efficient intensive farming.

Experience has shown that in the 1976-1980 plan, the rate of increase of food crop yields was low because our efforts were only aimed at increasing the cultivated area. But with the promotion of intensive farming in the 1981-1985 plan, the rate of increase was fairly high. In the coming period, we must both accelerate the green revolution for rice and such other crops as maize, beans, and industrial plants, and we must launch the biological revolution, which, in substance, will be the second green revolution. If this is to take place in the 1990s, now is the time to lay the foundations for the era of information technology, to apply the latest advances in this field and in micro-biology, so that we can create new seed varieties and new food products. In the immediate future our task is to distribute seed, set up a network to protect vegetable crops and domestic animals, ensure that farmers are provided with the equipment they need at the right time, and set up irrigation systems.

In parallel with the promotion of intensive farming, the cultivable area must be extended and new land cleared the question of farming machinery will be solved gradually. As a developing country we have had to pay a high price for our tractors (which numbered 39 400 in 1982).

In learning our lesson from our experience, by the year 2000 we will have achieved selective mechanization. For instance, there will be mechanized irrigation, drainage, tilling, transport, insecticide treatment, etc., for rice crops. But for all crops, mechanization must be combined with manual work. In regions where automation has partially been achieved, we shall reorganize tractor stations, consolidate labour groups, and improve management by giving priority to machinery repair and supplying spare parts.

In the change from small- to large-scale production, we realize that we cannot simply rely on the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses to achieve a hasty socialization of production by adopting administrative measures, and we know that we must choose the right forms of collectivization.

In 1982, the five million farmer families belonging to the country's 15 000 agricultural cooperatives account for 96.9 per cent of the population in the north and 24.4 per cent in the south, with varying forms and degrees of collectivization according to the level and type of productive forces prevailing in each locality. In addition to the cooperatives and mutual aid organizations, to stimulate production further, we are setting up a network of buying, selling, and credit cooperatives.

The sector of family economics is of fundamental importance since it provides the population with the majority of its foodstuffs. We must insist on the vast expansion of vegetable gardens, fish breeding, and animal husbandry with the help of the collective economy and under the protection of organizations responsible for technical services.

Farm cooperatives, state farms, and family farms constitute complementary economic sectors. The combination of all three makes it possible to obtain high yields.

In order to implement the aforementioned socio-economic strategy, several broad policies must be adopted. First of all an investment policy: in any economy, the percentage of finished products is an extremely important indicator. Given the predominant role of agriculture' we must invest in that sector. In the 1976-1980 plan, agricultural production accounted for 28 per cent of gross production, but investments in the agricultural sector represented only 21 per cent of the overall investments in the nation's economy.

This investment policy was applied during the period of transition to socialism: particularly in the initial phase in which the collective and private economy still represents a notable proportion and where state capital is still limited. That is why our policy will be backed by the slogan: "The State and the people work together. Central and local organizations work together." In agriculture this slogan has begun to yield positive results.

Investment policy in agriculture and in the economy in general is closely connected with the population growth policy. We all know that the investment funds are divided into three parts: one to maintain and repair existing structures, another to promote production, and the third concerns the population growth rate (food, housing, clothing, nursery schools, schools, health, vocational training). In recent years, our country's population growth rate has been high. From 1979 to 1983 it was 2.1 per cent, which had a negative effect on our economy. We must therefore take the necessary measures to promote family planning in order to reduce the investments envisaged to compensate for the population growth rate, and to increase the volume of capital injected into the economy.