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Viet Nam rice safe from AFTA deal   2010-02-13 - VietNamNet/VNA, VOV

 The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), which zeroed out tariffs on imports among six member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) effective January 1 of this year, will not have a significant impact on rice exporters, according to an official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Duong Ngoc Thi.

"The tariff reduction will not have much effect on the production and trading of rice because Viet Nam does not have significant numbers of rice export contracts with ASEAN countries, except for the Philippines," said Thi who is deputy head of MARD’s Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Strategy.

Five ASEAN members, including Viet Nam, would apply the zero tax rates on the other member states beginning in 2015.

At that time, Thi noted, farmers would also benefit by being able to buy cheaper fertilisers and other materials from ASEAN neighbours.

Meanwhile, Thi recommended that rice exporters focus on improving quality and increasing the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice on regional and world markets.

Vo Tong Xuan, former rector of An Giang University, said Viet Nam exported many high-quality rice varieties, but the areas under cultivation with those special varieties remained limited, unable to meet demands of either the domestic or foreign markets.

"Our farmers also grow too many hybrid varieties, so the quality of the rice is disappointing," said Nguyen Van Dong, director of the Hau Giang provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The ministry has directed provinces to focus on two or three key varieties for the 2009-10 winter-spring crop.

Some provinces with favourable conditions would be able to grow high-yield varieties for both the home and export markets.

"Hau Giang Province would plant one or two high-quality rice varieities on an area of 20,000ha out of the province’s total 82,000ha growing rice for this year," Dong said.

He also urged the State to invest in high-quality seed, better infrastructure for agricultural production, and a commodities trading floor for rice, adding that close co-operation among enterprises, the State, farmers and the scientific community would benefit growers, exporters and consumers.

Rice export volumes and prices were typically difficult to forecast, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, due to unpredictable factors like bad weather in other rice-growing countries.

This year, Viet Nam has already signed contracts with the Philippines to export 2.3 million tonnes by September, but rice exporters were otherwise seeing difficulty in finding other export markets.

Last year, the nation exported 6 million tonnes of rice, accounting for 15 per cent of the world rice market.

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